Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church

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Place Description

The Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, now Le Centre Culturel Français, is located at the corner of Bernard Avenue and Richter Street in downtown Kelowna. This historic landmark has a steeply-pitched, front-gabled roof with a prominent central steeple and Gothic pointed-arch windows. The Church is situated among six others along Richter Street, forming a religious precinct in downtown Kelowna.

Heritage Value

The establishment of the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kelowna reflects the strength and continuity of the German community that settled in Kelowna starting in the late nineteenth century. The fruit industry was integral to Kelowna’s development and formed the basis of the City’s economy, leading to secondary industries such as fruit and vegetable packinghouses, canneries, and winemaking. This industry attracted a number of settlers to the region, many of whom were of European origin. A population boom between 1945 and 1949 spurred Kelowna’s population to 10,000, necessitating the development of community services, including churches that served the spiritual needs of the burgeoning and multi-cultural population.

The Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, constructed in 1949, reflects the continuing growth of the Lutheran denomination in Kelowna. In July, 1945, three Lutheran families in Kelowna approached Pastor John Propp of Peace Lutheran Church in Vernon to come to their city to conduct services. The services were held in private homes at first, until the group grew large enough to rent a small church on Rutland Road. The congregation of Christ American Lutheran Church was organized on March 17, 1949, as a mission under the Canada District of the American Lutheran Church. The membership stood at 70 baptized and 50 confirmed, and the pioneers of the congregation had a vision of a large and strong church. The design was provided by Haggen & Currie, a local firm of consulting engineers, and Mike Schemmer acted as general contractor. Henry Krusel undertook the work on the altar, pulpit, original baptismal font and other wood finishing, and Philip Daum built the pews. The church dedication occurred on November 26, 1950.

Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church is further valued as an example of the late persistence of the Gothic Revival style, reflecting the relative conservatism of the original congregation. During the postwar era, other denominations were exploring the use of modern architecture to reflect a progressive new image, while some held staunchly to traditional appearances. Over time, the Lutheran congregation continued to grow, and moved to a new, larger church in 1976. This church was sold, and subsequently used as an arts centre. Since 1982, the building has been the home to the French Cultural Centre of the Okanagan, demonstrating continuous community use to the present day. The mandate of the French Cultural Centre is to foster within the population of Kelowna a better knowledge and appreciation of the French language and culture.

Character Defining Elements

Key elements that define the heritage character of the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church include its:
- prominent corner location at Bernard Avenue and Richter Street in downtown Kelowna, set amongst six other churches of various denominations
- continuous community use
- ecclesiastical form, scale and massing as expressed by its: symmetrical design; one storey-height; full basement; steeply-pitched front-gabled roof with bellcast flare; central prominent steeple tower; and central entry
- construction materials such as: wood-frame structure; concrete foundation; and stucco cladding
- Gothic Revival-inspired details such as Gothic pointed-arch windows and louvers
- windows such as pointed-arch wood-sash windows with wooden tracery, and multi-paned casement windows at the basement level
- interior features such as fir hardwood floors and wooden trim