There is nothing that evokes a sense of heritage more than a building with a story. The Layer Cake Hall was constructed in 1859 and is an excellent example of Gothic Revival architecture. This structural design movement began in England and draws distinctive features including finials, scalloping and lancet mouldings. The Layer Cake Hall is the only Gothic Revival architecture example in Bath.
The Kingston Chapter of the Mechanic’s Institute was one of the first in Ontario and operated between 1834-1909. This organization had a mission to provide adult education to workers and craftsmen, eventually revolutionizing access to education for the working class. Soon individual branches were formed around the region including Napanee, Gananoque, Bath, Brockville and Belleville. The Bath Chapter of the Mechanic’s Institute commissioned the building in Bath, known as Layer Cake Hall, but ran out of money before completion.
Abraham Harris was builder and master carpenter of this structure and took ownership when the Mechanic’s Institute was unable to pay. Becoming an unlikely landlord he rented the upper storey to the Masonic Order and the lower to the Presbyterian congregation. After years of failing health, he died in 1880. The property transferred in settlement of considerable medical debt to Dr. Roderick Kennedy, Bath's local physician.
Dr. Kennedy continued to maintain the leases. When the Mason's vacated the property In 1890 the St. John’s Anglican Church became second storey tenants while the Presbyterian continued to rent the lower level. Dr. Kennedy died in 1911 in Kingston. Upon his death he deeded the building to St John's Anglican Church with the proviso that the Presbyterian congregation would continue to occupy the lower level space and share in ongoing upkeep of the hall.
The entire space fell to the Anglican Church some time after 1925 when the Presbyterian congregation vacated following the Church Union. The building continued to serve as a fellowship space for the Anglican community for many social events, including Sunday School classes, Christmas concerts, Ladies Auxiliary and Bazaars. During the 1960s the Layer Cake Hall was still in operation for parish activities. With escalating repair and maintenance costs the need to find a larger and more modern hall became evident. Simply put, the now century old building was inadequate.
It is hard not to touch on the story of the Layer Cake Hall without mentioning the impact of the Gutzeit family. Mabel Fairfield Gutzeit was a member of the St John Anglican community. At the time of her death she left a legacy of giving with a bequest meant to make the proposed new memorial hall a reality.
With the Layer Cake Hall no longer in active service to the congregation, the vacant building steadily deteriorated. Unable to support the upkeep the building was sold to the Millhaven Women's Institute for a nominal sum of $1. Capital funding was eventually secured from several heritage programs to restore and preserve the building in 1981.
Fast forward, the Lennox & Addington Library – Bath Branch is the current occupant. This small town library is a testament to the people it serves. A pedestrian friendly location, Bath residents and visitors can enjoy this hidden gem found in the equally interesting Layer Cake Hall. Long may it continue to serve the Villagers of Bath.
Layer Cake Hall
193 Davey Street
It is pretty evident that Layer Cake Hall has a unique name and we wondered why. We found two stories at the Lennox & Addington Archives on how this charming building got its name. You be the judge!
In 1973 Oct 31 the Napanee Beaver explained it all saying ‘The Layer Cake Hall is so called because it once housed two different religious denominations at different levels’.
The other explanation comes decades later when The Sunday Beaver 1994 June 7 printed ‘The Layer Cake Hall is aptly named since its ornamental details, at various levels, make it a visual treat’.
It can be agreed that the distinctive features of the Layer Cake Hall make it special no matter how she got her name.