On a Sunday and on this date, February 7, 1892, Catholics of St. Peter's abandoned the familiar pathways that led to the old downtown church and directed their footsteps along an entirely different route to Maple Street, in order to assist at the opening Mass of their handsome new church. This edifice still stands as a monument to the faith and the foresight of the late Mons. Underwood, who brought about a greatly increased attendance at church services shortly after his arrival here in 1885, and commenced a campaign for funds to provide us with a more adequate house of worship. For nine years, only the basement section was used and it was not until 1901 that the upper part of the church was opened.
There were some rare old relics brought up from the church in ''Chapel Lane''. The most precious of these is the historic wooden altar table. This altar table has undoubtedly been in use since St. Peter's parish was constituted about 1830, but its story probably goes away back. The evidence is sufficiently favorable to assume that the same altar table was set up in the first Catholic church built at Halifax in 1784. That first church at Halifax was called St. Peter's. The name "St. Mary's" was not adopted until 1830, and then the original name came to Dartmouth. So the name of our parish has been used since 1784, and is the oldest name of any English speaking parish in Nova Scotia perhaps in Canada. We have also the second oldest parish in greater Halifax, because the second parish in Halifax city was St. Patrick's, founded ten or twelve years after ours.
In the early days, Dartmouth there was probably a mission. The beginning of the little church in the picture occurred on Monday, October 26, 1829. Old newspapers reveal that on that date "the frame of the new Catholic chapel was erected in the delightful little village of Dartmouth." The next noteworthy record is that on April, 1830, when the Wardens of St. Mary's offered to the Catholics over here, anything from their vacated church that could be useful or ornamental. No doubt the altar was one of the pieces of furniture chosen. The table, or lower part of this altar, has two curious reliefs-one of Our Lord as Saviour of the World, and the other of St. Peter. The reredos, or upper part, has the date 1839 printed on it. This portion is peculiar in that the Mass cards form a permanent part of its decoration. This was a characteristic of some Nova Scotia altars of a century ago.
In the cut, note the little oil lamp adjacent to the telephone pole. In front of the entrance there is a turnstile in the fence. You can just discern another in the pickets at the northwest corner of the church. From there a path led to Ochterloney St.
The upright pole is a flag-staff to which would be tethered the pet goat of Canon Woods.
The porch had a double entrance. Just inside was a box for firewood. Two stairways inside led to galleries so that worshippers faced the sides. Downstairs there were two rows of pews. Half way up the wide aisle was a large box stove from which went up several lengths of oozy stove pipe angulating and stretching along horizontally until they reached the lone chimney rising from the glebe house roof. In the aisle behind and in front of the stove were several settees. The two in the present choir loft may have belonged there. The old church stood over 90 years, until it was demolished about 1920. The land was donated by John Skerry to Bishop Fraser with the understanding that he enclose the field with a picket fence. He did. Some of our dead are interred there, but it is not clear as to the area used. Some were unearthed when excavating for St. Peter's Hall in 1894. Mr. J. P. Dunn remembered a mounded grave near the church. -J.P.M.
The third Saint Peter, the present structure, was consecrated by Archbishop James M. Hayes on June 29, 1969, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. While maintaining architectural continuity with the old facade, the interior of the new building is vastly different. Its form is circular with the altar placed in the exact centre of the worship space. For a glimps of how it was constructed, see ...constructing the new Saint Peter's is the mother Church of Dartmouth, for from it several parishes have grown. There are now seven Catholic churches in the city.
It was particularly known for its stained glass windows and beautiful dark wood. On December 28, 1966, the church was destroyed by fire. Churches of similar architectural design are still located in the town of Yarmouth, the cathedral of Saint Ambose and in the town of Amherst, the church of Saint Charles.
It was a very devotional church, striking in appearance and much loved by generations of Catholics in the city of Dartmouth.
In 1882, a large piece of property was obtained on the corner of Maple Street and Crichton Avenue, and construction began on the second Saint Peter's. It was a large brick structure with two towers of uneven height. It was located on approximately the same location as the present church but it faced westward.
Saint Peter Parish is the second oldest parish in what was known as metropolitan Halifax-Dartmouth. Its origins go back to 1829, for in that year construction of a new church recommenced in the city of Halifax, which was to become Saint Mary's Cathedral in June 1833. The church that had until then served the Catholics of that City was transported, at least in part, across the harbour waters some years later. It was located on the corner of Ochterloney and Edward Streets, in what would now be the downtown core of Dartmouth. More detail on the original Saint Peter's is found in an article in an old article from 1943.