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First Church of Christ, Scientist

Christian Science in Perth began in 1904 when several adherents arrived from Sydney and began meeting each week to read Bible lessons. The first public Christian Science service was held in 1908. By 1912 the group had formed the Christian Science Society and services were held in a variety of rooms rented in Perth.

In 1926 the Church bought the site on the corner of St Georges Terrace and Elder Street, which included several outbuildings of what had originally been the Pensioner Barracks. In 1933 an auditorium was built as a temporary church. The current church was built in 1939, designed in the Inter-War Art Deco style by architects Ochiltree and Hargrave. However, it was not dedicated until 1949, because that ceremony could not be conducted until the church was debt-free.

In 1966 a significant portion of the church’s land was resumed by the government for the construction of the Mitchell Freeway. The 1933 auditorium was demolished and a replacement building constructed just to the north of the church.

Various other changes were made to the building in the late 20th century, including replacement of the original asbestos roof with Colorbond steel. Today, First Church of Christ, Scientist, continues to be used as a place of worship.

Detailed Description

Christian Science in Perth began in 1904 when several adherents arrived from Sydney and began meeting each week to read Bible lessons. The first public Christian Science service was held in 1908. By 1912 the group had formed the Christian Science Society and services were held in a variety of rooms rented in Perth.

The Church of Christ, Scientist, was based on the teachings of American Mary Morse Baker Eddy (1821-1910). She taught a “new system of healing”, which was eventually published as Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (1875). Some of her students formed the Christian Scientists Association in 1876.

In 1926 the Church bought the site on the corner of St Georges Terrace and Elder Street, which included several outbuildings of what had originally been the Pensioner Barracks. In 1932, architect J. L. Ochiltree drew plans for a substantial hall, to seat 600 people, to be built on the site in St. George’s Place. Services were held there until the new church, designed by Ochiltree and Hargrave, was built and opened in 1939. However, it was not dedicated until 1949, because that ceremony could not be conducted until the church was debt-free.

In July 1938, Ochiltree and Hargrave drew plans for the First Church of Christ, Scientist. The contract was awarded to well-known builders A. T. Brine and Sons Ltd. for £776. Their previous work included the State War Memorial, W. A. Trustees Buildings, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Gledden Buildings, St. Anne’s Hospital, Mount Lawley, St. Mary’s Church of England, South Perth, and First Terminal Wheat Silos in Western Australia at Bunbury.
The new church was completed in June 1939. The church provided accommodation for 650 people and it was noted that “every possible facility in keeping with modern architecture has been added, even to the sunken recess for the organ”. Noted features were the large hall, with a parquetry floor in sheoak, the cream and white treatment to the interior of the church, and massive jarrah pews and heavy carpeting down the aisles.

Located at the high point of the western end of St. George’s Terrace, First Church of Christ, Scientist, became a well-known city landmark, part of a notable precinct that included the Barracks, of which only the Arch would remain after the wings were demolished in the late 1960s, and Parliament House.

On 13 November 1959, the Narrows Bridge and Kwinana were officially opened. Following the bridge’s completion, planning commenced for the interchange and development of the road system required for the northerly extension of the freeway and that leading to the city. Land resumed for the new road system included ‘a significant portion’ of First Church of Christ, Scientist’s land, resulting in the removal of the 1933 Sunday School and the building to the rear, originally the Infirmary for the Barracks.

Although there have since been some minor changes to the church, today First Church of Christ, Scientist, Perth continues in use as a place of worship and a landmark in the area.

Location