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.
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!
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.
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.
Historically significant as the third home of the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brookfield, Connecticut, this building is also architecturally important as an exceptional Gothic Revival place of worship. The second church of St. Paul’s burned on Valentine’s Day 1936, and the church soon after sought to rebuilt, but with fireproof construction. Members of the church were said to have gathered stones from stone walls nearby, as the town developed, with farmland making way for suburban housing. Bridgeport architect Frederick H. Beckwith furnished plans for the Gothic Revival edifice, which apparently took inspiration from a church in Dorset, England.
This 2-story Neo-Gothic Revival church constructed of buff brick and limestone, is dominated by an off-center, 4-level tower and showcases how even smaller towns in New England have some of the finest 20th century churches. In 1849 St. Mary’s parish, in nearby Warren, Rhode Island, was founded to serve residents there as well as Irish and French Canadian immigrants in Bristol, which began arriving en masse. Just years later, in 1855, the first St. Mary’s Church in Bristol, was constructed as a plain wooden structure, and operated as a mission of the Warren church. In 1874 the Bristol church became an independent parish and saw large increases to membership with more Irish families settling here. Over the next decades, the space became more cramped and a building campaign was started to get a new place of worship. The present St. Mary’s Catholic Church was built in 1911, from plans by the Providence-based architectural firm of Murphy, Hindle & Wright, who together (and separately) designed many ecclesiastical buildings, in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The interior is even more stunning than the exterior detailing, and remains very well-preserved.
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?
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.
The Trinity Episcopal Church in the Southport section of Fairfield, Connecticut was established in 1725. Twenty families met for worship at its first meeting house in the center of town on Thanksgiving Day, 1725. Since then, the church has constructed five different places of worship in locations around town. Architect Albert C. Nash designed the church which was constructed during the years 1854-56. Sadly, the building’s near total destruction by wind during a tornado on January 1, 1862, required the church to be completely rebuilt as originally planned, with a few structural alterations. Trinity Church is an excellent work of early Gothic Revival church architecture in wood, one of the best I have seen in my trips around the region.
In the 1840s in New England, one architectural style commanded a large majority of all new house styles, Greek Revival. A divergence from the Classical designs of the Georgian, Federal and Greek Revival styles which dominated at the time, the Romantic movement began its first true breaths across New England. The Gothic Revival and Italianate styles are often thought to be the first couple styles which brought the frills and detailing personified by Victorian-era architecture.
This home in Fairfield, Connecticut was built in 1840 to a design by Joseph Collins Wells, it is one of the oldest-known and best-documented examples of architect-designed Gothic Revival architecture. The home was built for for Jonathan Sturges (1802–1874), a businessman and patron of the arts. It is one of the earliest known examples of architect-designed Gothic Revival architecture, a style more often taken by local builders from pattern books published by the style’s proponents. The home was likely a pre-cursor to architect Joseph Wells later commission, the famous Roseland Cottage.