by Steven

Presentation House Theatre is housed in the Presentation House Arts Centre which was built in 1902 as a school, for grades one to twelve. In 1913 it was taken over by the City of North Vancouver and became a “temporary” City Hall for 62 years. It was used as a Police Station, a Justice building and housed the City’s Engineering Department until 1975. When the City of North Vancouver announced they would be building a new City Hall, the North Vancouver Community Arts Council requested that the building be given to the community for use as an art centre for the North Shore.

The Anne MacDonald Studio building was formerly St. Johns Anglican Church and was built in 1899. After its use as a church, it became a church hall, and later the Scout Hall. In 1973, the congregation decided to replace its original church and offered the building as a gift to the City, if it was moved to a new site. The Arts Council recognized the benefits of the building, both for its historical value and as a character space for the arts and asked that it be added to the arts centre by moving it to site at 3rd and Chesterfield.

The driving force behind the North Vancouver Community Arts Council was its Executive Director, Anne MacDonald, who was honored by having the church building named after her. The City of North Vancouver donated the building and capital funds were raised from the National Museums Program, the BC Community Recreational Facilities Fund, BC Ministry of Recreation and Conservation, Vancouver Foundation, District of North Vancouver, a fire insurance claim and private donations.

The North Vancouver Community Arts Council created the Presentation House Cultural Society to manage the operation of the buildings, the programs of the theatre and gallery. The North Vancouver Museum and the Archives Commission were created to operate the museum.

The renovations to the gallery space and museum were completed first and officially opened on September 12, 1976. The completion of the theatre posed a challenge as funds had been exhausted. Canada Council provided funding through an Explorations Grant to hire Chris Tyrell to complete the theatre, and with the assistance of Labour Grants, and much scrounging of materials from the community, the theatre opened in July 1977. The church building was moved from 14th Street down to third and the restoration was completed by a volunteer Building Committee and the Young Canada Works Program. Finally, after replacing the stained glass window, the Anne MacDonald Hall was opened on December 11, 1978.

The Presentation House Theatre has its office and box office on the main floor and the theatre, dressing rooms, bar and lobby are located on half of the 2nd floor. Presentation House Gallery has its photographic exhibitions and a bookstore on the 3rd floor and offices on the main floor. Presentation House also houses the North Vancouver Museum which occupies half of the 2nd floor for its displays. The archives have relocated to the Community History Centre, a renovated heritage building at 3203 Institute Road in Lynn Valley. Each organization is a separate non-profit society responsible for its own programs. Management of the buildings is administered by the theatre society, Presentation House Cultural Society.

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