Those who sat in the pews of Benvoulin Heritage Church this past weekend, sat on the same original benches as the church’s founders in 1892.
That was one of several interesting facts shared this past weekend at the 120th anniversary of Benvoulin Heritage Church.
The event was put on by the Central Okanagan Heritage Society to celebrate a building once envisioned to be the hub of the community.
“One hundred and twenty years ago, Benvoulin was the heart of the city,” said Don Knox, president of the Central Okanagan Heritage Society.
Guests of the anniversary celebration were treated to musical talent, given guided tours throughout the property and had the opportunity to take in a service led by retired Presbyterian minister Lorna Hillian.
The celebration wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the formation of the Central Okanagan Heritage Society 30 years ago.
The building—then referred to as Benvoulin United Church—ceased to function as a church in 1964. The condition of the structure continually declined and plans began unfolding to use the property as a practice site for the Kelowna Fire Department.
“Dr. Walter Anderson got a bunch of people together and said, ‘We can’t let this happen.’,” said Knox.
“That’s when the Central Okanagan Heritage Society was formed. So the church has a double meaning for us.”
Several guests of the event shared stories about how their roots connected to the heritage church.
Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson shared the story of his connection Saturday morning at the anniversary opening.
His great aunt was the first person baptized in the building, initially named Benvoulin Presbyterian Church.
He hailed the Central Okanagan Heritage Society for working to keep Kelowna’s history alive.
“We need to reflect back to that period, 30 years ago, when people had the vision and the foresight to take this on in terms of restoring and protecting our heritage,” said Thomson.
“If you look at what has generated from that now with all the other work the heritage society is doing in helping preserve Kelowna’s past, I think all the volunteers and staff need to (be) thanked…for the work they do in supporting and protecting our past.”