The oldest known example of ecclesiastical Gothic Revival architecture in New England is surprisingly located right in Gardiner, Maine, the Christ Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church in Gardiner was organized in 1772 by Sylvester Gardiner, a major landowner for whom the city is named as the town’s main church. Two more vernacular buildings were constructed as houses of worship until a new, fireproof structure was desired. Built in 1820, the stone church was designed by the Reverend Samuel Farmer Jarvis, who was likely heavily inspired by the stone churches found in England. The church has massive lancet Gothic windows with tracery, that in the tower considerably larger.
This Carpenter Gothic house in Gardiner, Maine, was built in 1853 by Reverend J.W. Hanson, author of the 1852 History of Gardiner, Pittston and West Gardiner and the second minister (1850-54) of the Universalist Church (last post), after its organization in 1843. Hanson was likely inspired by the design of his church when having his own home built, as he followed the Gothic mode. His house features board-and-batten siding, bargeboards, and trefoil windows and carvings in the said bargeboards. Reverend Hanson lived in the home until 1868 when he moved to Dubuque, Iowa. The home is very well preserved and one of the best examples of the Carpenter Gothic style in the state.
This stunning Gothic Revival church was built in 1843, on the site of the blockhouse, erected 80 years prior for the settlers of the area from native attack. In the 17th and 18th centuries, many rural parts of New England had blockhouses erected to allow the settlers a defensive fort from attack. The blockhouses were often garrisoned wooden structures with small windows on all sides to allow for gunfire to attackers below. The structure would protect those inside from arrows and melee weapons. This building however, was constructed later for the Universalists, who believed in “universal salvation,” who had been meeting since 1821 in a schoolhouse beside the town common. The church, in its original state with its steeple and clock, was an extremely sophisticated example in wood of the Gothic Revival style with its pinnacles, lancet windows and pilasters. Sadly, the steeple and clock were removed in the early 1920’s for safety reasons as the structure could not support it without significant engineering. The church and congregation changed to the United Church of Christ-Congregational denomination in 1964. After that, the building was occupied by a brewery (believe it or not), before being reverted back to a church by the current congregation.
Constructed c. 1850, this Gothic Revival house in Farmingdale, Maine, has many identifying features common in the style: a symmetrical facade, steeply pitched gable, and lancet windows in the front gable. Besides its architectural significance, the home is also historically significant as the home of Dr. Gertrude Heath. Gertrude Emma Heath (1859-1935) was born in Gardiner, Maine in January 1859. When Gertrude was just three years old, after the American Civil War began, her father died in battle at Fredericksburg, leaving his widow Sarah to run the family affairs. She excelled in school and received her early education in the public schools of Gardiner, afterward attending Hahnemann Medical College at Chicago, Illinois, taking special courses. She graduated from this institution in 1883 with the degree of Doctor of Medicine, and began medical practice in Chicago in 1884, moving back home within that year. Soon after returning to Maine, she accepted a position at the Maine State Hospital, at Augusta, where she specialized in eye and ear conditions. It is amazing learning stories about such strong women, when at the time, women medical practitioners were almost unheard of and women were decades away from earning the right to vote.
This home in Schenectady’s Stockade Historic District appears to have been built in the mid-19th century, and is an excellent example of a modestly sized Gothic Revival cottage. The house was occupied around 1860 by David P. Forrest, who served one term as Mayor of Schenectady in 1859, later becoming an Inspector of State Prisons from 1860 to 1862. The amazing Gothic bargeboard and other trimmings have remained and add so much intrigue to the home’s design. And that lancet window in the gable end! Swoon.
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?
“Longfield”, aka the Abby DeWolf House was built in 1848 and is one of the finest homes in Bristol, Rhode Island. The home was completed from designs by Providence architect Russell Warren, who also designed other mansions in town (I’ll post those later on in this series), the Westminster Arcade in Providence, and “Hey Bonnie Hall” a since demolished Federal style home I featured a couple days ago. Longfield’s name derives from the 60-acre meadow, part of the 300-acre Henry DeWolf farm, given to Abby DeWolf when she married Charles Dana Gibson at just 21 years of age. The DeWolf Family paid for the home as a gift to Abby. The DeWolf Family is infamous for being highly active in the slave trade, and was believed to have transported over 11,000 enslaved people from Africa to the Americas before congress abolished the African Slave Trade in 1808, which “prohibited the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States…from any foreign kingdom, place, or country.” This policy did little as many owners of slaves just kept children born into slavery and also opened plantations in the Caribbean and South America. After Abby died in 1901, the home went to her granddaughter who maintained the home. By the 1970s, the home was sold out of the family and began a period of decades of deterioration to its current state. The interior is effectively gutted, but some original woodwork and fireplaces remain. Recent calls for a townhouse development with ample parking was proposed and approved by the town a couple years ago, but would greatly diminish its siting and architectural integrity. Nothing has happened on the site, but here’s to an appropriate restoration!
The Mount Vernon Congregation Church was founded in 1842 and originally was located in Ashburton Place on Beacon Hill (which I featured previously). As its members moved to the Back Bay, the congregation decided to build a new church in the western portion of the neighborhood. They hired architect C. Howard Walker to design the new church building, with stained glass windows by John LaFarge and Louis Comfort Tiffany added as memorials to several members of the congregation over subsequent years. As originally designed, the church had a 45-foot high steeple on top of its 85-foot square tower, but over the years it became structurally unsound, and it was removed just before the Hurricane of 1938, which toppled many steeples all over the region. In 1970, the church merged with the Old South Church in the Back Bay. In 1977, developers proposed to remodel the church building into retail and office space. The proposal was approved by the Boston Redevelopment Authority in January of 1978. Before work could commence, a fire destroyed much of the church building leaving a shell of Roxbury Puddingstone walls and the tower, the developer pulled its funding and the building’s future was uncertain. One year later, architect Graham Gund purchased the building. Gund was familiar with adaptive reuse projects, like his restoration of the Middlesex County Courthouse in Cambridge for his own office in Cambridge in the 1970s. Gund redesigned the building into 43 condominium units called Church Court. What are your thoughts on the architecture?
Perched high on a hill in central Newport, NH, St. Patrick’s Church has served the community in its stunning building for nearly 150 years. The town of Newport began seeing Irish immigrants moving into town looking for work at the mills as early as 1835. The large working-class population created a need for a Catholic church in the growing town. That same year, the Catholic population of the state of New Hampshire was listed at just 720 people. Over the following decades of meeting in homes and small buildings around town, the Catholic population in town, along with the newly established Archdiocese of Manchester, NH, came up with funds for a church in the mill town of Newport. The congregation hired Hira Ransom Beckwith, a carpenter, builder and architect from nearby Claremont to design and construct the new place of worship. Interestingly, Beckwith had only a high school education, so his training as an architect and builder was through apprenticeships. The church is a blend of Gothic Revival and Stick styles, with the lancet windows and tracery paired with the elaborate stick-work in the gable.
One of the most stunning Gothic Revival homes in New England has to be the Justin Morrill Homestead in the tiny town of Strafford, Vermont. The home was designed by and built for Senator Justin Smith Morrill (1810-1898), who was born in town and worked with his mentor Jedediah Harris at the local store. He later expanded and owned numerous stores in the area and diversified, investing in railroads, banks and real estate in the region. He retired in the late 1840s and became a gentleman farmer, building this Gothic Revival home in town. In 1854 Morrill was elected to the Thirty-fourth Congress as a Whig. He was a founder of the Republican Party, and won re-election five times. In 1866, Morrill was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Union Republican, serving until his death in 1898. Morrill is best known for sponsoring the Morrill Act, also known as the Land Grant College Act. This act was signed into law by Abraham Lincoln in 1862, and established federal funding for higher education in every state of the country. Senator Morrill primarily used this house as a summer residence, as he spent much of his time in Washington, DC. The property remained in the Morrill family, until World War II. The house was eventually acquired by preservationists, who sold it to the state in 1969 for use as a Historical Site and museum.