New School House in Berlin (Kitchener), Ontario (1892)

oldcarmelcthumb.jpg“[On October 30th], parents and friends gathered at 10 o’clock, and took their places in the rear of the hall on the first floor. In front were the chairs for the children, but these were as yet unoccupied. The teachers and children assembled in the old school-house, not far away, and marched to the new building together. After laying aside their hats and wraps in the side rooms they formed in line to enter the hall. Before entering they sang the first two verses of the “Color Song” (see Life [1892], p. 124). With the third and fourth verses they marched into the hall to their seats, placing their offerings in the basket as they passed the door” (New Church Life 1893, 10).

gccarmc-892-1closeup.jpgThe Berlin (Kitchener) school house, which was also used for church services, was situated on an ample three acre lot (New Church Life 1890, 205). It was designed and built by Henry Stroh, who also built the Parkdale Church in Toronto as well as the “Club House” in Bryn Athyn.

A cornerstone laying ceremony had taken place earlier in the year on Sunday, June 12, 1892. The stone chosen for the occasion was an unfinished piece of granite taken from a local field (New Church Life 1892, 112). It is interesting to note that the sermon delivered by Rev. F. E. Waelchli was given in German (New Church Life 1892, 130). Berlin had originally been settled by German Mennonites in the 1790s, and later other German immigrants followed.

The building is remembered by many as the “old Carmel Church.” The society adopted the name Carmel Church of the General Church of the New Jerusalem on New Year’s Eve 1897. The building was used by the Carmel Church Society until 1962 when a new Carmel Church was built in the countryside (Caryndale).

gccarmc-b-2.jpgNew Church Life gives a detailed description of the Berlin school house:

“The school-house of the Academy of the New Church Berlin, Ont., an illustration of which accompanies this issue [see top photo], is now occupied by the school and used for the worship of the Church of the Academy. The house is situated 150 feet back in a lot having a frontage of 260 feet and a depth of 650; the trees in the background of the picture are at the limit of the lot. The grounds in front of the building and around it have been beautifully laid out by Mr. Swain Nelson, of Chicago. The house is very nearly a cube, measuring about 42 feet each way. It is built of wood and has two stories and a mansard roof; also a basement, half of which is above ground. There are 75 windows in the building. The house is painted white with red trimmings. The main door of entrance is in the middle in front. Entering by this door we find ourselves in a hall from which stairs lead to the basement, and also to the second story. Descending to the basement, we find it divided into three parts. The apartment on the right will be the boy’s clothes room, wash room, etc., and also play room in bad weather, and the one on the left will serve the same purpose for the girls. In the girl’s basement will also be the kitchen, which will communicate with the first story by means of a dumb-waiter. This will be a great convenience for the social gatherings. The third apartment of the basement is between the other two, and contains the furnace and fuel. Returning to the first floor, we see six doors opening from the hall, two on each side, and two at the farther end; these lead to as many rooms. The four rooms on the sides measure about 14×14 feet each, and the two in rear 15×20 each. The two large rooms have a movable partition between them, and so can be thrown into one, making a large hall. The inside of the building is not plastered, but is finished with oiled ash, which gives a very pretty effect. Returning to the hallway, we go up-stairs into the hall for worship, which measures 30 by 40 feet, and as the part under the roof is included in the hall, it has a height of 20 feet. At the sides of the hall, on each side of the stairs, there are two small rooms, one of which is the vestry and the other a retiring room for the ladies. Over these two rooms and the stairs there is a gallery, which can be used in time of need. The entire upper story is finished, like the first floor, in ash” (New Church Life 1893, 10).

A feast of charity on November 4th was the first significant event to take place in the building after the school opening.

Photos: Academy of the New Church Archives, Swedenborg Library, Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania. School children in front of school: The back of the photograph has the following notations: “School on First Occupancy of present building 1892″; “Back Row: Rev. F.E. Waelchli, Homer Waelchli, Clara Pepplee, Annie Steen, Daisy Steen, Edna Stroh, Isabella Roschman, Rev. J.E. Rosenquist”; “Middle: Herbert Hachborn, Alfred Stroh, Herbert Steen, Lambert Steen, Emil Stroh, Albert Hachborn, Ella Roy, Lily Steen, Nelso[n] Glebe, Edward Stroh, Miss A. Moir, Minnie Glebe, Edith Roschman”; “Front: Alena Roschman, Laura Deppisch, Lorene Stroh, Laura Schnarr, Clara Scott, Edna Steen, Carl Roschman, Fred Roschman, Bernard Rosenquist.”

Questions and comments may be addressed to the editors at

June 13, 2007 | Posted by: Ed and Kirsten Gyllenhaal in New Church History Fun Fact