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.
The first purpose-built Church of Christ, Scientist church in Maine is this turn-of-the-century edifice constructed in 1905 in Gardiner. Organized in 1897, this Christian Science Society of Gardiner met for several years in members’ homes and public places nearby until Palmer Noyes and his wife Caroline funded the new building. Caroline and Palmer helped establish the first such church in Chicago, after the couple witnessing a ‘healing’ and then heard Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy lecture in 1882. This church in Gardiner was seemingly designed by Caroline, who was likely inspired by architectural influences on the churches in town, from Gothic style lancet windows, to the shingle style facades. The building was eventually converted to a development center for the disabled, and is now known as “The Stone Turret”, a bed & breakfast, with amazing stained glass windows!
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.
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?
In the mid-to-late 1800’s, Rye Beach on the coast of New Hampshire was a popular summer residences for wealthy families from New York, St. Louis, Chicago, and other mid-western cities. Church services were important to these summer residents who united together to build this chapel, which before its construction, had to go to services at the casino in the colony (not ideal). Generally, wealthy summer residents here brought their household staffs, who lived in the many hotels and boarding houses along the beach. Some of these servants and employees of the hotels were African-Americans, who used St. Andrew’s for their own worship services and meetings. The summer chapel was built in 1876, completed that next year and is one of the most stunning chapels I have seen in New England. St. Andrew’s was designed by the architectural firm of Winslow and Wetherell. It is a unique example of a small rural stone chapel embellished by wooden trim and owes much to both the Stick and late Gothic styles. English country parish churches clearly inspired the chapel’s design and the use of rubblestone construction (likely of stones that were taken from the site) makes the building pop! Oh and that rose window at the facade!
One building in Boston that has always perplexed me is this round church building. It echoes Eero Saarinen’s MIT Chapel in Cambridge, but is much heavier and plain. After over an hour of researching, I finally found out some history behind it! The church was constructed in the South Cove Redevelopment area, an urban renewal program run by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (now BPDA) as a sort of “slum” clearance near Chinatown. The Church of All Nations was founded in the South End in 1917, housed in a Gothic Revival chapel that was seized by eminent domain for the Massachusetts Turnpike Extension and demolished in 1963. The congregation met in temporary quarters on Arlington Street until the new church was constructed in 1975. Records show that the congregation hired famed Modernist architect Bertram Goldberg as early as 1967 to design a new chapel, set in a new public park. The original plans called for a square building with a massive “steeple” incorporated as the entire roof. For some reason (possibly funding and changing demands for the church), the final design was a little more mundane. The cylindrical church is clad in dark glazed brick with a cross raised in the brickwork. The church suffered from a dwindling congregation in its location, and now appear to rent out the building. One of my favorite local architecture firms Touloukian Touloukian, Inc., re-imagined the site as a new residential tower. It would be one of the few beautiful new buildings in Boston in the past decade or two. Can we please make this happen?!
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.
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.
In the township of Washington, New Hampshire, about three miles from the Washington Town Green, stands a rural church building, a white wooden structure complimenting freshly fallen snow. This church is honored as the mother church of the first Seventh-Day Adventists. Its story started in 1842 by a local group of farmers calling themselves Christian Brethren, who dissented sharply from the strict Congregationalism of the Church in Washington Center. Many of the Christian Brethren became Adventists about the time this building was first used, and thereafter some of them began worshiping on the Seventh Day; and eventually the majority did so. In 1862 the official Seventh-day Adventist denomination was born at this place. Today, the building is a regular point of pilgrimage for members of the massive, international congregation.
Residents in the eastern portion of the rural town of Washington, NH found it very inconvenient to attend church at the center of town. In 1800, a group of residents on the east side of town banded together to create a new congregation, building a church perched on a low hill soon by 1826. The church was used for decades until it burned in 1844, it was replaced a year later, but that burned as well. Undeterred, the small congregation had yet another church built in 1877. The church remains in great condition, and is still active.