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Elora church officials ponder how to pay for roof replacement

Knox Presbyterian Church is structurally safe, but the original 140-year-old roof will need to be replaced in the future
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Knox Presbyterian Church in Elora is said to be the only church in Canada located inside a traffic circle. Keegan Kozolanka/EloraFergusToday file photo

ELORA – In an effort to maintain a historic landmark church in Elora, church officials are considering options on how to pay to replace the more than 140-year-old roof. 

Knox Presbyterian Church on Church Street just outside the downtown-area was first built between 1873 to 1876, but the congregation has its roots back to the 1830s, making it the oldest congregation in Elora. 

“It’s just a wonderful facility and we’re lucky to have it,” said Rev. Susan Clarke. “Unfortunately lovely old facilities have lovely old maintenance fees.”

Clarke clarified there is no safety risk and the structure itself is fine. She explained there has been recent repair work done to stabilize the steeple and new beams were put in to stop consistent leaks. This work cost around $200,000. 

However, Knox church board chair Ian Rankine, also a local heritage advocate, said the contractor on that project told them at some point the original galvanized roof is going to give out and will need to be replaced. 

Clarke didn’t give an exact figure but said a recent quote put the work around $1 million. 

“That’s where we are now and we are uncertain as to what we can afford,” Rankine said. 

Clarke and Rankine explained officials will be meeting soon to discuss ideas on what the church can do to raise funds although Rankine clarified this will ultimately be a congregation decision. 

He said some ideas such as a GoFundMe campaign, hiring an investment company, and township grants are all on the table for discussion. 

However, Rankine said it’s better for them to make decisions soon.

“If we wait five years to replace it, the cost is only going to go up,” Rankine said. 

As a local heritage advocate, Rankine emphasized how important maintaining this historic church is to the community. 

“All of the churches, I think it’s three remaining steeples, are community assets, they’re landmarks, they draw people … they’re part of the charm of Elora,” Rankine said. 

Clarke agreed with this and put Knox Presbyterian Church up there with other iconic tourist spots like the Elora Mill and the Elora Gorge. 

“I can’t tell you how many people take pictures of this building on a daily basis, even in the middle of winter,” said Clarke who lives across from the church. 

“It’s really an iconic building and it would be a shame to have anything happen to it. But you know, older congregations, it's a lot of responsibility for us to keep up.”

Rankine said the church would appreciate any community financial support.