Episode 2: The Tilting Post Office
Episode 3: Homer Watson House
Episode 1: The Church of the Holy Cross
The century-old Church of the Holy Cross or “The Skookumchuck Church” is built entirely of wood. It’s a unique example of “carpenter-Gothic”, entirely hand-carved, with three towering spires, a rose window and arches. Inside, heritage experts say the stunning beauty of its handcrafted religious folk art will take your breath away. But after a century of spring flooding, the Lillooet River has taken a toll on the church’s foundation, and a major flood in 2003 left cracks and shifting. This monument to native art and faith is in grave danger. Without a new foundation, it is at high risk of collapsing.
In 1905, with no architectural plans, basic hand tools, and only some postcards of cathedrals in France given to them by the Oblate missionary priests, 17 native craftsmen built a cathedral - their own Notre Dame in the B.C. interior.
Many of the grandchildren of the original builders are still living, and there are over a hundred archival photographs of the Church’s early years. Sharon Syrette married into the local band, and says the Church has always been the heart of the community. Her husband and children were baptized there. She helped form a volunteer committee to raise funds for the desperately needed restoration, inspired by her 92 year old mother-in-law who pleaded to her, “Save my church”. Another elder mother told her “I do not want to see the church fall down before I do.”
There are additional restoration plans: An octagonal rose-stained glass window needs repairing, and cedar shingles on the spires need replacing. But the really high stakes are with the foundation.
The foundation is made of hand-hewn timbers set on giant river rocks that were dragged from the Lillooet River. A new cement foundation that would stabilize the building is considered feasible, though potentially dangerous work. A contracting company has given an assessment and budget. Sharon’s volunteer committee has been slowly raising funds for several years, but they know they’re on borrowed time.
Without a new foundation, the Church of the Holy Cross will likely fall down. Before a Cathedral falls in the forest, will anybody hear? A new foundation can breathe another 100 years of life into the Church – and its parishioners.