A friend and follower of Frank Lloyd Wright, [Francis Conroy] Sullivan designed this impressive church [St. Clare’s Catholic Church] in his mentor’s Prairie School style, incorporating flared overhanging eaves and geometric wood accents on stucco to emphasize a strong horizontal form.
If you want to see some of the city’s architectural gems you have to go to church.
At 8:30am on Sunday morning I realize I can make 9:00am Mass if I’m quick about it. Eighteen kilometres due north of Burritt’s Rapids on Dwyer Hill Road is St. Clare’s Catholic Church (1915), also known as St. Clare’s Mission and Ste-Claire de Goulbourne. I drive-by-admired the structure for years but never bothered to stop.
St. Clare’s moves beyond a simple curiosity because of its link to the American master of Prairie Style architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright. Kingston-born architect Francis Conroy Sullivan worked in Wright’s Oak Park studio from 1907 to 1908. His only Canadian pupil, Sullivan is credited with bringing the modernist Prairie School style to Canada.
Sullivan’s credits are impressive; St. Clare’s Catholic Church is only one of his many buildings in Ottawa and beyond. Once you know what to look for, his work will begin to pop.
There are 30 cars in the parking lot this morning and I am heartened to see the pews mostly full. Nowadays, small rural churches like this one are lucky to see a dozen souls on Sunday.
After Mass, I ask Father’s permission to take photographs. By the time I finish shooting, the church has emptied. Living rural-in-the-city I know the protocol; I simply close the door behind me and leave.
The rectilinear exterior gives way to soft, rounded elements and pastel tones. With the winter sun pouring through the south-facing windows, it’s all sweetness and light.
St. Clare’s Catholic Church
4001 Dwyer Hill Road, Ottawa, ON