When Ridgefield, Connecticut was settled in 1708 by Europeans, there was only one Episcopal Church in the state, and the general assembly allowed dissenters their own churches so long as they continued to pay taxes to support the Congregational Church. Ridgefield’s first Episcopal church, St. Stephen’s was built in 1740 on land granted by the Proprietors who founded the town and laid out lots along the towns new Main Street. In 1776, St. Stephen’s minister, Epenetus Townsend, a Tory (loyal to the British), was ordered to leave town with his wife and five children when the Revolution picked up steam. He was appointed chaplain to a British regiment and in 1779, the battalion was ordered to Nova Scotia. En route by vessel, a severe storm arose and all passengers were lost. The church was taken over by the commissary department of the American Army. During the Battle of Ridgefield, British troops set it on fire as a statement to the townspeople. The church was replaced two more times until 1914 when the present building was constructed. The Colonial Revival church is absolutely stunning and built from plans by (unknown to me) architect Walter Kerr Rainsford. The rubblestone church is one of the most pleasing designs I have seen in Connecticut!
By 1829, the population of Providence, Rhode Island was spreading from the east side of the Providence River (near Brown University) to the west. Around this time, two dozen parishioners of the St. John’s Episcopal Church on Providence’s East Side purchased the old Providence Theater on the west side of town and renovated it for use as a church. By 1835, the congregation grew to 260, and a new church building was needed. Grace Church hired the foremost architect of the time, Richard Upjohn, to design the beautiful new building, which was the first asymmetrical Gothic Revival church in America when it was completed in 1846! In addition to its architectural significance, the building contains the first painted windows ever seen in Rhode Island. Downtown Providence eventually grew up around the church, really diminishing the chance at a good photo of the building, but later urban renewal and the razing of parts of the downtown area (many undeveloped to this day) provide some interesting sightlines of the towering steeple.
Standing adjacent to the beautiful St. Saviour’s Episcopal Church in Bar Harbor (last post), the church’s Rectory building fits very well into the landscape here. Built in 1898, the rectory is a two-and-a-half-story stone and frame home with a projecting entrance porch at the facade framed by a pair of steeply pitched gables. The Rectory was designed by Westray Ladd who grew up in the area, and worked in the office of Wheelwright & Haven in Boston, Massachusetts as well as with William Emerson and Peabody & Stearns before opening up a firm in Pennsylvania.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Located in Beverly Farms, an exclusive summer colony in Beverly, this church served as one of the places of worship for the Episcopalians who built mansions here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1900, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Beverly established a mission at the Beverly Farms area with services held in nearby buildings until the present church building was erected in 1902. Completed during the summer of 1902, the church was designed by architect Henry Vaughan, who was trained in England and used his inspiration there to design many iconic churches around the region. He is credited with bringing the English Gothic style to the American branch of the Episcopal Church, The design follows that seen in earlier English churches with Tudor and Gothic detailing. As the neighborhood developed in the 20th century with more families, the church has grown to provide ample space for the surrounding towns.