The North Rochester Congregational Church is located in a distinctly rural, area in the northwest corner of the largely pastoral town of Rochester, Massachusetts. This church, built 1841, is locally important to the development of religion and community in North Rochester. In Rochester as in other early New England towns, the building of a church symbolized the founding of a community. North Rochester’s first church was built in 1748, about 1 mile west of the present building, and was served by traveling ministers from other communities. The church congregation was formally organized in 1790, and a new church was built at that time, serving a larger area. The current church building was built in 1841 by Solomon K. Eaton, a noted regional builder whose credits include several other area churches. The church is of the Greek Revival style, which was frequented in the designs of hundreds of churches all over New England in the mid-19th century.
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.
I do love a good adaptive reuse story! This Marion, Massachusetts church building was constructed in 1830 for the town’s growing Universalist congregation. Architect Seth Eaton was hired and furnished plans, likely relying on neighbor, Warren Blankinship, a carpenter and congregant, to construct the building. It blends together the Greek and Gothic Revival styles well, but in a less sophisticated form. By the mid 20th century, membership of the church dwindled, and it finally shuttered its doors. With the building’s future uncertain, at a time where demolition for surface parking lots was the go-to solution, Marion residents Andrew and Dorothy Patterson, purchased the building and soon after worked with local artists in town to restore the building for use as an art space. The Marion Art Center was thus founded in 1957, and to this day, serves as a non-profit community cultural organization dedicated to promoting the visual and performing arts.
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.
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.
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?