Initially erected in 1877 and enlarged several times thereafter, the St. Saviour’s Episcopal Church in Bar Harbor is an excellent example of ecclesiastical architecture in the state of Maine. The original church building had been erected in 1877-78 at a cost of about $7,000 from designs by the New York architect Charles C. Haight. Within eight years of its construction, space limitations caused the church to undertake a major expansion. Designed by the Boston architectural firm of Rotch and Tilden, this building campaign – carried out in 1885-86 – dramatically changed the church’s appearance by developing a cross shaped plan that made use of the original structure for transepts and added a larger nave, semi-circular apse, and an imposing crossing tower. The numerous building campaigns designed by both prominent and lesser known architects, have produced a rich eclectic architectural legacy that mirrors the development of Bar Harbor.
As wealthy citizens from cities like Boston, Philadelphia and New York, began building summer cottages on Mount Desert Island in Maine, an influx of carpenters and tradespeople from Ireland followed to construct and work on them. Realizing this, cottager DeGrasse Fox along with Brooks White of Philadelphia, donated land for a new Catholic church building. Maine architect, William Ralph Emerson, donated plans for the church. A masterpiece of Shingle style design, the church, which seated 300 people, was deemed too small for the growing village’s summer congregation. A new, stone church was built closer to town (featured previously). The spire and belfry resemble another church Emerson designed in Beverly, MA, St. Margaret’s Catholic Church. Sadly, St. Sylvia’s burned down in 1909.
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.
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.
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.
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.