St. John the Evangelist Church // 1900

St. John the Evangelist Church in Schenectady, NY is probably the most imposing church I have ever seen (outside of European cathedrals). The church began in 1898 when Monsignor John L. Reilly purchased land across from Union College’s campus to erect a new church. He began collecting donations to fund a church suitable for Schenectady, and visited Europe to seek inspiration for the design. He worked with architect Edward Loth of nearby Troy, NY on the design which resulted in this massive 120’x130′ structure. The stone church has a small tower at each of its four corners with a central spire reaching 230′ high. The center spire was constructed of steel and glass to cast light onto the sanctuary below (sadly has been replaced with a metal roof). This is definitely one of the more memorable churches I have ever seen! What do you think of it?

Henry S. DeForest Mansion // c.1890

Henry Schermerhorn DeForest (1847-1917) was born in Schenectady, New York and became a leading citizen of the bustling upstate city. He attended school in his hometown before leaving to study at Eastman Business College in Poughkeepsie. He returned to Schenectady and married Lucie Van Epps, soon after gaining employment by her brother at his broom manufacturing company as a clerk and bookkeeper. He began using his earnings to buy and develop property in the city, eventually making him the city’s largest landlord. He was also a building contractor, with his company constructing more than 1,000 homes in the Schenectady area. He served as Mayor, in a role that he successfully advocated for General Electric to locate in Schenectady when it was formed from the mergers of several other companies, including Edison Machine Works, which had moved to Schenectady in 1886, creating a huge boom in development and growth for the city. After this, he has this large stone mansion constructed to showcase his wealth and success as a developer and Mayor. After his death in 1917, the home remained in the family for some time until it was acquired by the Schenectady Veterans Association not long after WWII, who maintain the building to this day.

Tewksbury State Hospital, Male Asylum // 1901

The Male Asylum building at the Tewksbury State Hospital was built in 1901 from plans by architect John A. Fox, who designed the Administration Building and many other buildings in the hospital/asylum campus. The building was eventually renamed after Anne Sullivan, who is best known as the teacher and companion of Helen Keller. Anne Sullivan contracted a bacterial eye disease known as trachoma, which caused many painful infections and, over time, made her nearly blind. When she was eight, her mother died from tuberculosis, and her father abandoned the children two years later for fear he could not raise them on his own. She and her younger brother, James (Jimmie), were sent to the run-down and overcrowded Tewksbury Almshouse (later renamed the Tewksbury Hospital) as a result, where she endured multiple unsuccessful eye operations and poor, cramped conditions. The male asylum building held cramped dormitories with men and boys suffering from various ailments and mental conditions. The building sits atop a stunning rubblestone foundation and features prominent Romanesque arched windows.

B. F. Keith’s Boston Theatre // 1894-1952

The other day, I was walking in Boston Common along Tremont Street, when I noticed this oddly ornate building wedged between larger, modern buildings. I HAD to investigate! The building was actually constructed as an arcade/covered walkway which ran to Mason Street behind, with a tunnel running under that street into the B.F. Keith’s Theatre. In 1892, Benjamin F. Keith and his business partner E.F. Albee purchased land off Mason Street, a scarcely trafficked street between the busy Tremont and Washington Streets in Boston’s Theater District, with the goal of creating the city’s finest vaudville theatre. The duo hired J. B. McElfatrick & Son, architects who specialized in theatres, to design the new B.F. Keith’s. Due to the site being wedged between two main streets, entrances were built off both Tremont and Washington with flashing lights and marquees, guiding patrons inward. The Tremont facade was especially grand so that B. F. Keith’s New Theatre could be advertised on, and approached directly from, Boston Common, with lights flooding the park. The theater opened in 1894 and was over-the-top with intricate details and sculpture all over, appealing to the city’s wealthy as a place to see the arts. Although it was primarily a vaudeville house during Keith-Albee’s ownership, famed inventor Thomas Edison demonstrated his new Vitascope movie projector here on May 18, 1896. This was the first projection of a movie anywhere in Boston. As live shows made way for motion pictures, the theater adapted, but suffered around the Great Depression when would-be patrons decided to save their limited money. In 1939, the theater was converted to a movie theater named the Normandie. The theater was demolished in 1952 for a surface parking lot to provide better service to the Opera House (originally B.F. Keith’s Memorial Theatre, confusing I know) and Paramount Theater. Today, all we have left of the once beloved B.F. Keith’s Theater is the small annex, which is virtually unrecognizable from historic images as most of its decoration and the top two stories were removed.

1906 image courtesy of Library of Congress.

Exeter Chambers // 1889

One of the lesser-known historic hotels in Boston can be found at the corner of Exeter and Blagden Streets in the Back Bay neighborhood, tucked behind the Boston Public Library’s Johnson addition. Exeter Chambers (now Courtyard by Marriott Boston Copley Square), was built between 1889 and 1890 from plans by architect Theodore Minot Clark. Clark was a professor at MIT and the understudy of Boston’s famed Trinity Church architect, H. H. Richardson. Clark oversaw much of the construction of Trinity Church and his name is even engraved on the building. Exeter Chambers was constructed by the Guastavino Company, a very prominent contractor during the period noted for style and quality, known for the Guastavino tile. Cutting edge techniques such as compression arches and terracotta accents were featured throughout the structure. The hotel was vacant for many years and a renovation in 2004, which added three stories to the building, restored the ornate exterior to its former glory.

Ebenezer Baptist Church // 1860

On September 15, 1847, a ship carrying 66 men and women and children docked at Long Wharf in Boston. This group of ex-slaves, led by Rev. Peter Randolph, emancipated by their former slave master Carter H. Edlow from the Brandon Plantation in Prince Georges County, Virginia. Members of the Boston Anti-Slavery Society, led by William Lloyd Garrison met the newcomers and made them welcome by securing lodging and work for self-support.  The group settled in the South End on Ottaway Court not far from the Holy Cross Cathedral. The group first joined the Twelfth Baptist Church of Boston before establishing their own congregation. They eventually occupied this church in 1887, the building was designed by architect Nathaniel Bradlee in 1860, which was built for what was then the Third Presbyterian Church of Boston. The church has remained here for nearly 150 years, seeing the rapid change in the neighborhood. The church building accommodated meetings including the Professional Black Women’s Business Club, which bolstered Black women in business, many members owned stores in the South End. Many members left the area amid growing gentrification in the 1980s and 1990s, and from that, the aging population remaining made keeping the doors open difficult. Sadly, the church relocated out of the building in 2020 and appears to have sold the building, leaving its future uncertain.

First Methodist Church, Burlington // 1869

This beautifully designed Romanesque Revival church consists of a large rectangular block with a steeply pitched gable roof and a square tower surmounted by a spire. The church is constructed of Willard’s Ledge stone (a locally quarried purplish limestone) with trimmings of Isle La Motte grey sandstone from quarries north of Burlington. This church is the only Romanesque Revival style church in the city and just one of four pre-1880 churches in Burlington. Architect Alexander R. Esty (1826-1881) designed the building and was a noted New England architect working during the late nineteenth century. He was trained in Boston and opened his own office in 1850 in Framingham, Massachusetts. The congregation remains active and welcoming.

Burlington Trust Co. Building // 1891

This narrow, four-story commercial block is located near the Burlington City Hall, and fronts the park it sits on. Constructed in 1891 from local redstone in a unique Romanesque Revival style, the building stands out as one of the most unique in the commercial downtown area. The building was built for the Burlington Trust Company from plans by Clellan W. Fisher, an architect who soon after joined a firm with Stephen C. Earle in Worcester, MA. The design features an unusual checkerboard pattern of inlaid red and white ashlar paired with a stone cornice which similates dentils and brackets. The building is now home to a Burton snowboard retail store, a company started in Vermont in 1977, now the leading snowboard company in the country.

St. Mary’s Church, Beverly // 1898

Located on Cabot Street, the main commercial street of Beverly, Massachusetts, this stunning stone church is one of my favorites on the North Shore. Though the church looks older, it was built in 1898 as a late Romanesque Revival church structure. The building replaced an 1870 building erected by the parish of St. Mary’s Star of the Sea, which was a mission church of the Immaculate Conception Church of Salem; prior to 1870, Beverly’s Catholics were part of the Salem parish. The 1870 church was destroyed by a fire in 1896 and it was years until the Diocese funded a new church here. The new church was designed by a newly formed firm of Reid and McAlpine, who later continued their practice in Canada. The parish pulled out all the stops design-wise as the windows and statuary were fashioned by Franz Mayer & Company of Bavaria, the Altars were carved by an artisan from Italy, and the pulpit and altar railing were carved by a local artisan. The church served a large and growing Irish Catholic population that was forming in Beverly, and has to this day been an active congregation.

GAR Building, Beverly // 1863

This stunning Romanesque building was constructed for the First Baptist Church in Beverly to use as a chapel in 1863. The Church vacated the building a few years later upon completion of their new sanctuary (last post), and the Town of Beverly then used the building as a High School until 1875. In March, 1876, a Town meeting voted to allow the Beverly Light Infantry Company, an organization of veterans of the War of 1812, to use the building for an Armory. From that time until the 1930s, other veterans’ groups utilized the building, in particular the John H. Chipman Post 89, Grand Army of the Republic. As a result of that use, the building is known as the GAR Building. During the time the Grand Army of the Republic used the building, the main hall was used for meetings and decorated with artifacts of the Civil War. When the Post was dissolved, the artifacts and records were moved to the Beverly Historical Society, where they are now housed in a room dedicated to the GAR. The building was designed by architectural firm of Lord & Fuller of Salem, MA. The octagonal bay window was added in the early 20th century. The building is now used for some town offices and has recently been restored and even features a period-appropriate paint job!