The First Reformed Church of Schenectady is the oldest congregation in the city. Founded by Dutch settlers, Schenectady’s first colonists, the first church lasted over a decade until it burned in the Schenectady Massacre in 1690, when a party of more than 200 French and allied Mohawk warriors attacked the unguarded community of Schenectady, destroying most of the homes, and killing or capturing most of its inhabitants. Sixty residents were killed, including 11 enslaved Africans. An expanding congregation after, outgrew its second and third buildings, replacing them with larger structures. The fourth was lost in Schenectady’s Great Fire of 1861, causing yet another building campaign. The present church building, an architectural landmark in Gothic design, was completed by the highly regarded Victorian-gothic architect Edward Tuckerman Potter in 1863. Potter is also known for his designs of the Nott Memorial Building (previously featured), in Schenectady, and Mark Twain’s home in Hartford, CT. A fire in the church gutted it in 1948, but the community at large banded together to fund the restoration efforts of the amazing architectural landmark.
The 16-sided Nott Memorial Hall is one of America’s most dramatic High Victorian buildings, is the centerpiece of the Union College campus (and a major reason for my stop in Schenectady when driving through New York). Union was the first non-denominational institution of higher education in the United States, and the second college established in the State of New York. Eliphalet Nott became college president in 1804, and envisioned an expanding campus to accommodate a growing school. In 1806 a large tract of land was acquired to the east of the Downtown Schenectady, on a gentle slope up from the Mohawk River. In 1812 French architect Joseph-Jacques Ramée, equally skilled in landscapes and structures, was then hired to draw up a comprehensive plan for the new campus. Ramée worked on drawings for about a year, and construction of two of the college buildings proceeded quickly enough to permit occupation in 1814. The Union College campus thus became the first comprehensively planned college campus in the United States! As part of Remee’s plan for the campus, a round, Neo-Classic “pantheon” building was proposed at the center of campus (a prescendent for Thomas Jefferson’s plans for the University of Virginia just four years later). The building never materialized in Unions early days. Construction finally began on the building in 1858, based on designs by Edward Tuckerman Potter, grandson of President Nott, but apparently took nearly 20 years to complete due to the Civil War and funding issues. The Nott Memorial as completed, is 89 feet in diameter and capped with a ribbed dome. The dome is sprinkled with 709 small colored glass windows, making it one of the finest buildings on a college campus in the United States!
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?
In the mid-to-late 1800’s, Rye Beach on the coast of New Hampshire was a popular summer residences for wealthy families from New York, St. Louis, Chicago, and other mid-western cities. Church services were important to these summer residents who united together to build this chapel, which before its construction, had to go to services at the casino in the colony (not ideal). Generally, wealthy summer residents here brought their household staffs, who lived in the many hotels and boarding houses along the beach. Some of these servants and employees of the hotels were African-Americans, who used St. Andrew’s for their own worship services and meetings. The summer chapel was built in 1876, completed that next year and is one of the most stunning chapels I have seen in New England. St. Andrew’s was designed by the architectural firm of Winslow and Wetherell. It is a unique example of a small rural stone chapel embellished by wooden trim and owes much to both the Stick and late Gothic styles. English country parish churches clearly inspired the chapel’s design and the use of rubblestone construction (likely of stones that were taken from the site) makes the building pop! Oh and that rose window at the facade!
Located in the Foss Beach section of Rye, NH, this Victorian summer cottage stands out among the later new construction of lesser detailed and quality late 20th century homes seen here lately. The home, known as “Tower Cottage” was built at the end of the 19th century and exhibits Victorian Gothic elements with a massive center tower. The steep wood shingle roof is punctuated by two rows of delicate dormers which add detail and views to the ocean. The massive wrap-around porch is also a must for such a prime location fronting the Atlantic Ocean!
Located on the Flat of Beacon Hill, 19th century-made land along the Charles River, the Church of the Advent stands tall as an architectural landmark of Boston. Construction of The Church of the Advent began in 1880 and would continue 12 years until the tower was completed in 1892. Its architect, John H. Sturgis, died in 1883, after which his nephew, Richard Clipston Sturgis, continued the architectural practice and oversaw the completion of this church. The building was designed in 1875 as an Early English Gothic style that was favored by Episcopalian church architects of the period, but it appears that after John Sturgis’ death in 1883, the design changed substantially during construction, to reflect the Victorian Gothic style. The church today serves somewhat as a memorial to its architect, for his family and clients donated the major portion of the interior art from windows to choir stalls.
While I love the quintessential white, wood-frame New England churches that proliferate the region, the stone, Gothic churches always make me stop in my tracks; and this example in Bristol is no exception! St. Michael’s parish was founded in 1718 as one of the Rhode Island’s four colonial churches, funded and overseen from London. The first church, built in 1720, was ironically later burned during a British raid in 1778. It was replaced in 1785 by a plain wooden meetinghouse with funds from local residents and partitioners. In 1833, it was replaced by a wood-frame Gothic church which burned in 1858. Undeterred, the church hired New York City architects Alexander Saeltzer and Lawrence B. Valk, who designed the present brownstone Gothic Revival church. Just over a decade later, the church hired Worcester architect Stephen C. Earle, to design a chapel and parish house, across the street. The chapel building follows the Gothic Revival style, but with more Victorian flair, and is also constructed of brownstone to compliment the church. Together, the two structures transport you to the English countryside with their design and presence on the main street in town. What do you think of them?
When strolling around Bristol, Rhode Island, you are overloaded with gorgeous early 19th century house styles, primarily in the Federal and Greek Revival styles. Among these, one house (or should I say mansion) stands out as a flamboyant Victorian Gothic showpiece at the southern end of the downtown area. Built in 1873 for Augustus O. Bourn (1834-1925), the founder of the National Rubber Company (and from 1883 to 1885 governor of Rhode Island), “Seven Oaks” could go toe-to-toe with any house in the state. Bourn’s architect was James Renwick of New York, one of the most celebrated architects of his time. Before designing Seven Oaks, Renwick’s resume included: Smithsonian Institution Building, Washington, D.C.; St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City; and the Renwick Gallery, Washington, D.C.. Seven Oaks is a large, hip-and-cross-gable-roof Victorian Gothic mansion constructed of stone, with multiple towers and a slate roof capped with iron cresting.
As Bristol grew to be a dominant financial center in Rhode Island in the mid 19th century, prominent families there decided that their loved ones (and later themselves) needed a place of beauty to rest eternally. In 1855, descendants of Levi DeWolf, of the infamous slave-trading family, donated 22-acres of land for use as a cemetery. The old Levi DeWolf home remains fronting Hope Street, featured previously as the Reynolds-DeWolf House. It is a fine example of the mid-19th century rural cemetery movement, with winding lanes and paths. The landscape was designed by Niles Bierragaard Schubarth, who had done similar work at other Rhode Island cemeteries. Upon the opening of Juniper Hill, many families relocated their loved ones from other cemeteries in town here, so the families could be interred nearby each-other. The cemetery has three main structures; a gateway, the gate lodge, and a chapel/receiving tomb. The gate is a massive stone archway set at the entry to the cemetery, and was built in 1876 by the Smith Granite Company of Westerly, R.I. The Gate Lodge was built years earlier is located at the side of the entry into the grounds, and is a stone Victorian Gothic Revival building, designed by Providence architect Clifton A. Hall and constructed of granite quarried on the site during construction of the landscape. Yards away, the charming Amory Chapel and Receiving Tomb, built in 1913, is a 1-story stuccoed structure with a tile roof, designed by the firm of Angell & Swift of Providence. The small chapel stands out as it is a rare example of the Spanish Revival style, but has seen better days, and is apparently being used as a tool shed.
Located on Cabot Street (the main commercial street) in Beverly, Massachusetts, the Odd Fellows Hall showcases the Victorian Gothic architectural style many main streets saw pop up in the mid-late 19th century. The Odd Fellows Hall in Beverly was completed in 1875 by plans from local architect Joshua Ober, as a multi-use building with a meeting/ritual hall on the upper floor with commercial uses at the ground floor. The building is constructed of brick with granite and freestone detailing, most notably the freestone tablets on the upper floor, with each side depicting a different ritual symbol. The Cabot Street tablet shows the “All Seeing Eye” with the date of construction and the Broadway facade has the “Heart in Hand” with links below, a bow and arrow and quiver are located on the upper corners. Growing up, I always thought the Independent Order of Odd Fellows was one of those secret societies that would be featured in a movie like National Treasure, but it actually, “promotes the ethic of reciprocity and charity, by implied inspiration of Judeo-Christian ethics”. We can still imagine though.