The Spire Community Campaign offers the community an opportunity to be part of this unique investment in the social, economic and cultural fabric of our city. For more details on Friends of the Spire, their members, and governance structure, please see “Historical Note on the Building” and “Significance of the Building for Kingston Today: A Commentary by Dr. Carl Bray”.

The eastward view from The Spire in autumn.



The Spire of Sydenham Street United Church has been standing tall on the Kingston skyline since 1851 – long before Confederation. Mariners on the St. Lawrence relied on it as a beacon and a sign of safe harbour. In fact, this land has always been a hub for the Kingston community in the heart of the Old Sydenham Heritage Conservation District. Originally, it served as the city’s circus lands and was donated in 1851 by our first mayor, John Counter.

This heritage building is an integral part of the streetscape of the Old Sydenham Heritage Conservation District and recognized as a fine example of Gothic Revival architecture. Its stone exterior detailing is matched in the interior by ornate plasterwork and delicately carved wood paneling, trim and furnishings. The elegant performance hall is embraced by a gracefully curved balcony, creating a warm space for performance and community events with excellent choral acoustics (see Appendix A and Appendix B).

Today it is the home for 16 community organizations who find safe harbour and inspiration within its walls. It is a favourite rehearsal and performance venue for local and visiting performances and a popular hub for dozens of educational and cultural events each month.

The building welcomes people of all ages, races, gender identities, sexual orientations, ethnic origins, economic circumstances, abilities and challenges. It is a precious resource and source of creativity and inspiration for our city and beyond, but its future is uncertain. Changing demographics, changing times and changing economics call for a new vision and a new mandate for this unique community asset.

Friends of the Spire have an exciting vision and a bold commitment to protect and renew this building for future generations. It includes a detailed plan to preserve it, expand access, enable new uses and invite new users. The name, The Spire, captures in two small words the historic value and the new identity of this valuable asset in our community:

  • It reflects the stunning architecture of the building and our commitment to preserving it for the future.
  • It reinforces the building’s historic role as a landmark and beacon on Kingston’s skyline.
  • It is rooted in the Latin word “spirare” and expresses the broader purpose of the building – a place where the community can breathe, create, aspire, perspire and inspire.
  • It complements the other great cultural/heritage spaces in the city like The Tett, The Isabel, The Grand and The Agnes.

In the winter of 2017, Friends of The Spire commissioned a Halo Study report, with the full support of the Sydenham Street congregation, to determine the economic impact on the community of all the operations at The Spire for the preceding year.

These operations included activities of:

  • Cantabile Choirs
  • Kingston Association of Museums, Galleries and Historic Sites
  • Kingston Canadian Film Festival
  • Helen Tufts Child Outreach Program
  • Loving Spoonful
  • a number of self-help groups
  • and of course, the work of the congregation of Sydenham Street United Church.

The Halo Study report concluded that the operations at The Spire represented a value to the community of $1.7 million. To read the complete Halo Study, please see the Halo Study Report.



The Spire is one of the oldest, largest, yet most intimate cultural buildings in the City of Kingston. Most weeks of the year, 1000-1200 people walk through its doors – to enjoy a wide variety of activities offered there. The building is “home” to many vibrant community organizations including:

  • Multiple AA and other self-help groups
  • Cantabile Choirs of Kingston
  • Beyond Classrooms Kingston
  • Helen Tufts Child Outreach
  • Kingston Canadian Film Festival
  • Kingston Choral Society
  • Sydenham Street United Church congregation



The Spire is unique by virtue of its location, its heritage architecture, its historic role and reputation as a welcoming community hub, its multi-purpose functionality, and its affordability. It has one of the most intimate and acoustically suitable spaces for choral music for its size in Kingston. The Spire ensures that this magnificent building will continue to be a dynamic hub for the arts, social justice and community building for generations to come.


There are two investments required to launch and sustain The Spire:

  1. Improve accessibility, washrooms and common spaces. Cost: $700,000
    • Install an elevator giving access to the second floor
    • Install an accessible side entrance
    • Accommodate increased usage by improving washrooms and commonspaces to accommodate the high-traffic demands of large audiences
  2. Plan for Capital Repairs/Improvements: create an endowment fund to be held by the Community Foundation For Kingston & Area that will support the longterm preservation and enhancement of the building. Cost: $1,000,000


In the initial phase of this campaign (Fall 2016), Friends raised over $600,000 from congregational members and close to $100,000 in grants for the project. The goal for the Community Campaign is an additional $800,000. We are seeking support for:

  1. At least $300,000 in expendable gift support over the next 12 months to complete the immediate capital improvements to the building.
  2. At least $700,000 to establish the endowment fund that will support the long-term preservation and enhancement of the building. This fund will be managed by the Community Foundation of Kingston and Area, which will ensure that the investment is maximized and the funds are expended prudently in accordance with the intent of the donor.


The Friends of the Spire have:

  • A vision for a barrier-free, self-sustaining community centre that will ensure this building continues to serve as a vibrant cultural, social and community resource
  • A detailed assessment of the work required (See Appendix C)
  • A business plan to ensure long-term viability of The Spire (See Appendix D)
  • A tested management structure that draws on community expertise and networks to build the The Spire’s presence and impact over time (See Appendix E)
  • A pool of lead donors who have already pledged 40% of the target to ensure the success of the campaign.

The Spire campaign offers a cost-effective opportunity to leverage the commitment of the members of Sydenham Street United Church and The Friends of the Spire for a visionary project that will have significant impact on the social, economic and cultural life in our city.



Many generations of Kingstonians – congregation members, families and friends of Sydenham Street United Church – have contributed to the preservation and enhancement of the church building as it is known and loved today. Members have been remarkably generous and have already raised close to $700,000 in pledges and grants to seed this project. This is in addition to over $2M the congregation has invested in the last twenty years to maintain and upgrade the building’s infrastructure (roofs, masonry, renovations, etc.). As a result, the building infrastructure is sound and in Architect Bruce Downey has just completed a Deferred Maintenance Assessment on the building. It stands as a fitting testament to clear vision and to the belief of generous benefactors – past and present – who have understood the importance of voluntary strategic investment and its value to the wider Kingston community.

Natalie Bull, Executive Director of Canada’s National Trust has pointed out that Canadians have lost more than 20% of our heritage places in the last thirty years and that many more are threatened. “These places tell our national story … and community groups who love them are stymied by the lack of seed funding to kickstart sustainable new uses.” The Friends of the Spire are determined to protect this heritage building and invite the Kingston community to be part of ensuring its future.

Strong philanthropic support is essential to preserve this Kingston treasure and to realize the vision we have for The Spire. The foundation is in place – now is the time for the community to demonstrate its support. Generous personal and corporate contributions will make this transformation possible and will support our applications for a range of complementary grants. We invite you to make this investment in the future of our community. There is a range of options:

  • A single, significant donation
  • A pledged contribution payable over a period of up to three years
  • A gift funded with publicly-listed securities or life insurance
  • A gift commitment in your estate plan

Friends of The Spire have a comprehensive plan for acknowledging and celebrating your investment in this unique community asset. All contributions are eligible for a charitable tax receipt. You will be invited to periodic Donor Recognition Events; if you wish, your name will be included in campaign publications and on The Spire’s donor wall. There are naming opportunities, which are outlined in our Donor Recognition Plan.

The area’s heritage value lies both in its collection of individually important properties and in its combination of these resources within a compact, inter-woven urban form. The area has value because of properties that represent each stage of the area’s development, because the area is relatively unspoiled, homogeneous and intact, and because it offers examples of some of the best buildings and streetscapes in Kingston.

Old Sydenham Heritage Area Heritage Conservation District Study

(This) proposed project will greatly improve the capacity and use of this important heritage building for our organization and the numerous others that operate from this community cultural centre…As our offices are on the second floor, increasing public access is crucial to our future operations.

Caroline Petznick

Managing Director, Kingston Assoc. of Museums, Galleries & Historic