Rochester’s First Congregational Church is the oldest extant building still standing on the Town Green in Rochester Center and is the fourth house of worship to occupy the site. Constructed in 1837 to the designs of architect, Solomon K. Eaton, the beautiful Gothic Revival church building is among the most beautiful in the state. Eaton was well-known for his ecclesiastical structures, but also designed other prominent civic buildings in Southeastern Massachusetts. A fun fact about Eaton is that at age 55, he volunteered for the Union Army during the Civil War and his unit saw action in North Carolina, he returned home after the war and lived out his final days. The church stands out to me for the quatrefoil windows on the bell tower, the pointed finials and comer posts, and large lancet windows. Swoon!
Next door to the Inn Victoria, the beautiful St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Chester, VT, stands out as one of the only Gothic Revival buildings in the town. A small group of residents gathered in the 1860s to found a Episcopal church in the town, which already had a dominant Congregational church. They furnished money which was matched by the diocese, and Merrick Wentworth was named senior warden. Members of his family and that of Frederick Fullerton, his son-in-law, formed a large part of the congregation. Frederick and Philette Wentworth Fullerton donated a building site across the street from their home (featured previously), and Mr. Wentworth’s nephew, Boston architect, William P. Wentworth, contributed plans for a Gothic-style frame church, which includes a tall corner belltower.
A Roman Catholic parish was established in the South Coast/Cape Cod area by 1830 in Sandwich, where a large glass company employed a number of Irish immigrants. Over the course of the 19th century, several mission churches were established, and eventually a second parish, St. Patrick’s, was established in Wareham in 1911. Soon after, a mission was established in nearby Marion to serve the summertime Catholic community there. A parcel of land was acquired by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Fall River and they hired architect Matthew Sullivan to furnish plans for the small church. Matthew Sullivan (1868–1948) trained in the office of Edmund M. Wheelwright, Boston City Architect (1891-1894). Sullivan succeeded Wheelwright as City Architect and served in that position from 1895 to 1901, when he became a junior partner in the firm of Maginnis, Walsh and Sullivan, which was widely known for its ecclesiastical work, where he too specialized in religious buildings. St. Rita’s Roman Catholic Church is an example of an early 20th century chapel in the Craftsman style, characterized by eaves marked by long projecting rafter tails and a bold entry framed by Tuscan columns.
One of the best examples of Renaissance Revival architecture in Rhode Island is the Central Congregational Church of Providence. Constructed between 1891-1893, this building was the new home to a growing congregation, which outgrew its original Thomas Tefft-designed building on Benefit Street (which has since been occupied by RISD). Famed architect Thomas Hastings of the firm Carrère and Hastings of New York City, was hired to furnish plans, and worked closely with Reverend Edward C. Moore to make sure the building was fitting of the site. The church is cross-gabled in form and is constructed of yellow brick with terracotta trimmings, evocative of Spanish and Italian Renaissance styles. The facade has a detailed central pavilion which is flanked by two towers. These towers were originally surmounted by elaborate belfries, but these were damaged by a hurricane in the mid 20th century and replaced by the present brick caps. The dome and vaulting is of tiles by Rafael Guastavino, it is the first dome that he constructed in the U.S., making this building even more significant.
Grace Church was built in 1835 for a growing congregation in Beacon Hill. The absolutely stunning Gothic style church was designed by William Washburn (1808–1890), an architect and city councilor in Boston. The church was constructed of granite and had massive stained glass windows and soaring towers with decorative embellishments. Inside, a massive central window flooded the interior with natural light, and illuminated paintings from Mario Bragaldi, a Milan artist. In 1865, the building was sold to the Methodist Episcopal Society. 1873, it merged with Hanover Street, and took the name First Methodist. The church was variously referred to as First, Grace, or Temple Street, sometimes all at once! This church was occupied until 1962, when it merged with Copley to form First-Copley, which appears to have then occupied the Old West Church. The building was soon after acquired by Boston University and demolished for the building on the site today, a true loss to one of Boston’s most beautiful buildings.
St. John’s Episcopal Church in Jamaica Plain, Boston, is a sprawling Victorian church dramatically sited on the crest of Sumner Hill, looking over the amazing neighborhood. The church was a local affair as it was designed by local architect Harris M. Stephenson and constructed in 1882 of rough-faced rubble Roxbury puddingstone (a locally harvested stone) with tan sandstone trim. Not all about the church is local though, some national players left their mark on the design. The church contains a collection of significant 19th century stained glass windows, including works by the studios of John LaFarge, MacDonald/McPerson, and Louis Comfort Tiffany. Additionally, there are two murals by nationally known artist George Willoughby Maynard. This church building is the second house of worship for the Episcopal congregation in Jamaica Plain. It was built on land bequeathed to the church by General William H. Sumner, lawyer, legislator, adjutant general, historian and developer of East Boston. The amazing Victorian Gothic building underwent a full restoration about a decade ago, thanks to preservation grants. The church remains an active congregation and advocates for both spirituality and social justice.
Founded in 1710, when Waterford was still part of New London, the Baptist Church was one of the dominant institutions in the historical development of the Jordan Village, which became the historic population center of town. The fact that Jordan Village in Waterford sprang up around a Baptist and not a Congregational church gives it an unusual religious significance in the state. The Baptist denomination was introduced to Connecticut from Rhode Island in 1705. The separation from the City of New London, which was organized around the locally supported Congregational church, was due in large part to the differences between the the formal, structured, Congregationalists and the evangelical Baptist farmers. In 1848, when this church in Jordan Village was built, many residents followed the architectural vocabulary and built Greek Revival homes nearby, creating a large development boom in the new town center. The church remains today as an active member of the community.
This old meetinghouse predates the Town of Newington having been erected when the area was known as “Bloody Point,” which was claimed by both Dover and Portsmouth. Surrounded on three sides by the Piscataqua River and the Great Bay estuary, early residents of Bloody Point found it difficult to attend town meeting or church service in either Dover or Portsmouth. Bloody Point residents soon decided to establish a parish, independent from both Portsmouth and Dover. The granting of a separate parish with town privileges in the early 1700s required the construction of a village meetinghouse, and the establishment of a church with a settled minster. There was no requirement for separation of church and state at that time, so a meetinghouse would serve the dual purpose of being both a place for feisty town meetings and solemn worship. Construction of the Bloody Point Meetinghouse began in 1712, and the first meeting was held in it in January, 1713, even though the building was far from completed. There were no seats, and the windows were only holes in the walls. On August 6, 1713, a meeting was held to organize the parish in the new building. The name “Newington” was chosen after an English village that provided a bell for the new meetinghouse. Rev. Joseph Adams was the first settled minister in the new meetinghouse, and he preached there for 68 years. Rev. Adams was the uncle to John Adams, second president of the United States, and great uncle of John Quincy Adams, the sixth president. The building was modernized in 1838-39 to its present church-shape appearance. Windows were reconfigured, the main entrance was moved from the long south side to the east gable end, and the freestanding belfry was relocated onto the roof of the east gable end, effectively rotating the building 90 degrees without moving it. The present-day Greek Revival building remains as a highly significant relic of the founding of Newington.
Boston’s constant churning of development has given us amazing architectural landmarks, and incredibly unfathomable architectural loss. One of such cases of loss is the former Brattle Street Church which was located on Brattle Street, roughly where the main entrance to Boston City Hall is located today. Demolition of significant architecture in Boston began way before the period of Urban Renewal in the mid-20th century, and the loss of the Brattle Street Church in Downtown Boston showcases this. The Brattle Street Church had been founded in the 1690s by a group of merchants seeking an alternative to the authority exercised by Increase and Cotton Mather in Boston’s existing congregations. Despite these beginnings, the church remained Congregational through the 18th century. At the time of the Revolution, Brattle Street counted such figures as John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Joseph Warren, and John and Abigail Adams among its parishioners. The original wooden church was replaced in 1772 by this stunning brick building, designed by Thomas Dawes. Just years after the doors opened, the American Revolution upended life in Boston. This building was a survivor, and was apparently hit by cannon-fire by the American batteries at the siege of Boston. A cannonball can be seen lodged into the building at the second floor, to the right of the Palladian window. After the American Civil War, development of the Back Bay led to a shifting population away from the downtown core, and a new church was erected for the congregation, the Brattle Square Church, designed by Henry Hobson Richardson. This church was demolished in 1872, just 100 years after it opened its doors and took a cannon for America.
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.