Located just a block of Main Street in Ridgefield, Connecticut, St. Mary’s Catholic Church stands out as a rare example of Victorian Gothic architecture in a village full of Colonial (and Revival) and mid-19th century buildings. The first known Catholic to arrive in town was James Brophy, who’s family settled in Ridgefield in 1848. While growth of a local Catholic church in Ridgefield was slowly being established, the character of the town was changing by the second half of the 19th century, with wealthy New Yorkers building homes for vacationing in the summers. From this, many Irish Catholic immigrants were hired to work on the new estates. The first permanent Catholic church in town was built in 1867 as a modest wood frame church. As the congregation grew, a new church edifice was needed, and after a capital campaign, funds were gathered to erect a new church. Connecticut architect Joseph A. Jackson (who specialized in ecclesiastical design), was hired to furnish plans for the new church. The building exhibits eclectic architectural styles. Gothic design is seen in the pointed or lancet windows, arches and cast iron finials. The Queen Anne style is reflected in the use of textured and varied building materials, such as brick, brownstone, and shingles. And St. Mary’s most unique feature, its unusual steeple with its four turreted abutments and conical roof worked in shingles, is representative of the Shingle style.
Built to replace the former St. Sylvia’s Catholic Church (1881-1909), the Church of the Holy Redeemer in Bar Harbor stands as one of the more imposing religious buildings in town. The new church was envisioned by Rev. James O’Brien, who wanted a larger church structure closer to downtown Bar Harbor than the current St. Sylvia’s. The Neo-Gothic stone church was designed by Bangor architect Victor Hodgins, and was constructed from granite blocks quarried from Washington County, Maine. Inside, massive trusses from felled cyprus trees nearby support the roof and stone walls. Gorgeous stained glass windows line the walls which flood the interior with color.
This 2-story Neo-Gothic Revival church constructed of buff brick and limestone, is dominated by an off-center, 4-level tower and showcases how even smaller towns in New England have some of the finest 20th century churches. In 1849 St. Mary’s parish, in nearby Warren, Rhode Island, was founded to serve residents there as well as Irish and French Canadian immigrants in Bristol, which began arriving en masse. Just years later, in 1855, the first St. Mary’s Church in Bristol, was constructed as a plain wooden structure, and operated as a mission of the Warren church. In 1874 the Bristol church became an independent parish and saw large increases to membership with more Irish families settling here. Over the next decades, the space became more cramped and a building campaign was started to get a new place of worship. The present St. Mary’s Catholic Church was built in 1911, from plans by the Providence-based architectural firm of Murphy, Hindle & Wright, who together (and separately) designed many ecclesiastical buildings, in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The interior is even more stunning than the exterior detailing, and remains very well-preserved.
Located not far from the demolished Loring House in Beverly, a stunning church in the same Shingle style, by the same architect remains, a sort of consolation prize for architectural historians. Primarily an architect of houses, William Ralph Emerson is recognized as one of a group of Boston-area architects whose work was important in the development of late nineteenth century American architecture. In the vanguard of those architects who designed in what has become known as the Shingle Style, Emerson was considered by many of his contemporaries to be its inventor. St. Margaret Roman Catholic Parish was established in 1885 as a mission of St. Mary Star of the Sea of Beverly, as Beverly Farms and Prides Crossing, summer colonies of wealthy of Boston residents developed and owners sought a place of worship in the Catholic faith. The church constructed a rectory in the early 20th century, which is constructed of reddish-orange stone, quarried from the site. Additionally, a school was constructed adjacent to the church in 1929 and designed by architect Edward T. P. Graham, who also designed the rectory, in a similar style, also with stone quarried from the site.
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.
This church in Agawam was built in 1927, replacing the first Catholic church in town, which was established in 1873. The earlier church was destroyed by a fire in 1925, causing the congregation and Archdiocese to fund construction of a new, fireproof church building. The Neo-Gothic Revival building features lancet windows, buttresses, and a central steeple. The building is now occupied as the Moldovian Baptist Church.
Located adjacent to the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church in Upper Falls, this rectory building, built in 1938 adds much to the streetscape. Although the building permit for this building was issued
in 1938, it was not occupied until 1943, according to City Directories. The building was designed by architect Timothy G. O’Connell of Boston, who specialized in ecclesiastical design. The 3 1/2-story gambrel Colonial Revival building has a center entrance with projecting balustraded porch with turned balusters and urn finials.
One of the grandest churches around Boston, Mary Immaculate of Lourdes R.C. Church, is in Upper Falls Newton, a working class village which developed around industrial mills in the 19th century. The church, built in 1909, towers above the workers cottages and smaller frame homes in the neighborhood showing the wealth and importance of the Catholic Church to Irish immigrants who worked and lived nearby. This parish was the first in the town of Newton and it comprised of multiple villages along with parts of Wellesley and Needham. The parish was formed in the 1840s and eventually grew so much it petitioned the Archdiocese to construct a new house of worship worthy of the population. In the early 20th century, a site was secured, and the house on the lot was moved for the erection of a new church. Edward T. P. Graham was selected as the architect, who designed this Renaissance Revival church. The commanding monumental columned portico rises over two stories and supports a projecting pediment which has decorative modillion blocks, cast figures within depicting religious figures. A campanile (bell tower) is located at the rear corner and is of Italian Renaissance design. In 2004, the Archdiocese had put Mary Immaculate on the closing list of churches; however, in 2006, the Cardinal had reconsidered his plan to close the church and decided to close a church in nearby Waban Village instead.
A happy blending of Mission, Colonial Revival and Shingle Styles for the Maine coastal community of Kennebunkport, the St. Martha’s Catholic Church exemplifies the charm of this town. The church is sited on a corner lot with a belfry at its corner. The nave features a central entry with Colonial pilasters and pediment above the second floor windows. The roofline is shaped with Mission style parapet walls and arched openings at the tower, showcasing the Spanish influence in the design. The entire building is wrapped with cedar shingles, as a nod to the coastal summer resort it resides. The church operated here until the mid-late 20th century when it was converted to an art gallery, and now is home to condos.
St. Marys Church in Brookline Village was the first Catholic Church established in Brookline. Irish immigrants originally settled in Boston, Cambridge and Somerville, and mostly worked in industrial occupations including for the railroad companies. The migration of Irish to Brookline was, in part, due to the opening of the Brookline branch of the Boston and Worcester Railroad, on which many Irish were employed as construction workers. Many settled in workers housing on the periphery of what is today Brookline Village. Many Irish families started congregating at the Lyceum Hall in Brookline as a Catholic meeting space. After the Civil War, land was purchased on Harvard Street for the erection of a church by the Catholic Diocese. Renowned architects Peabody & Stearns were selected to design a church.
Completed in 1886, the Victorian Gothic church is constructed of red brick with Longmeadow brownstone trim. Gothic lancet windows and arches adorn the building, which has prominent facades on both Harvard and Linden Streets. Directly to the right of the church, a rectory was built to provide a residence for the Rector. The 3 1/2-story rectory was also designed by Peabody & Stearns and is stylistically similar to the church next door. A school and convent were later added to complete the large campus.