Swedenborgian Church of Lancaster // 1881

This beautiful old building was constructed in 1881 in Lancaster, MA as a Swedenborgian Church. The congregation in The United States has always been much smaller than other prominent religions, but Lancaster had a sizable group of believers. Some wealthier residents bankrolled for a new church building, which would and could not compete with the Unitarian Church designed by Charles Bulfinch. Architect Francis Ward Chandler from the Boston firm of Cabot & Chandler designed the modest, yet beautiful building in the Queen Anne style. The congregation died off and in 1923, the building was purchased by members of the Current Topics Club, seemingly a debate and social club in town. The old church sold in 2020 as a residence.

Lancaster Industrial School for Girls Chapel // c.1840

The Lancaster Industrial School for Girls was a self-sustained campus of housing, dining, farming, and functional buildings giving the State of Massachusetts little need to worry about its day-to-day function or funding. In 1838, the First Universalist Society in South Lancaster (then known as New Boston), built a house of worship for members living there. When the southern part of Lancaster reincorporated as the separate town of Clinton, members of the church relocated a short distance to the new manufacturing-oriented community for prosperity. This church was closed, but was purchased by the Industrial School for Girls, who moved the building 1.5 miles to their campus, for use as a chapel. The building was added onto and altered a couple times, but has sat deteriorating since the school closed.

Rochester Congregational Church // 1837

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!

St. Mary’s Church, Beverly // 1898

Located on Cabot Street, the main commercial street of Beverly, Massachusetts, this stunning stone church is one of my favorites on the North Shore. Though the church looks older, it was built in 1898 as a late Romanesque Revival church structure. The building replaced an 1870 building erected by the parish of St. Mary’s Star of the Sea, which was a mission church of the Immaculate Conception Church of Salem; prior to 1870, Beverly’s Catholics were part of the Salem parish. The 1870 church was destroyed by a fire in 1896 and it was years until the Diocese funded a new church here. The new church was designed by a newly formed firm of Reid and McAlpine, who later continued their practice in Canada. The parish pulled out all the stops design-wise as the windows and statuary were fashioned by Franz Mayer & Company of Bavaria, the Altars were carved by an artisan from Italy, and the pulpit and altar railing were carved by a local artisan. The church served a large and growing Irish Catholic population that was forming in Beverly, and has to this day been an active congregation.

First Baptist Church, Beverly // 1976

Walking down the main street in Beverly, I was stopped in my tracks to see what appeared to be a 19th century steeple attached to a Modern church. I snapped a photo hoping I could find information on the architectural oddity I saw. The church is the First Baptist Church of Beverly, which was founded in 1800. The congregation’s first place of worship was constructed a year later for the town’s small Baptist population. The building was eventually outgrown and a large church was constructed in 1866 on Cabot Street, the main commercial street in town. The massive wooden church was an architectural landmark and its steeple has served as a lighthouse since the 1920s! The Coast Guard installed a range light in the steeple in 1921 as ships began using the harbor to get to the Salem power plant. It shines every night, even now, and can be seen 13 miles out to sea. Sadly, in 1975, a blaze ripped through the 880-seat sanctuary and chapel, destroying almost all of the church, but the steeple was saved thanks to firefighters from over 15 nearby towns who came to the aid of Beverly. The congregation noted that as the steeple persevered, so would they. A new, Modern church was designed, and incorporated the corner steeple into the new sanctuary, creating the interesting blending of mid-19th and -20th century styles.

St. Therese of the Infant Jesus Church // 1927

This church in Agawam was built in 1927, replacing the first Catholic church in town, which was established in 1873. The earlier church was destroyed by a fire in 1925, causing the congregation and Archdiocese to fund construction of a new, fireproof church building. The Neo-Gothic Revival building features lancet windows, buttresses, and a central steeple. The building is now occupied as the Moldovian Baptist Church.

North Adams Universalist Church // 1893

Tucked away off Main Street in North Adams you’ll find this charming little church. The Universalists were organized in North Adams in 1842, restoring an existing church near the Hoosic River. The congregation chose a site for a new church in 1852, and erected a white wooden chapel. It is unclear if the church was outgrown or a fire destroyed it, but the Unitarian society voted to build this church for a cost of approximately $25,000 in 1892. Architect Henry Neill Wilson of Pittsfield drew the plans, and the firm of Porter and Harnam of North Adams constructed the church. Due to the declining population in town in the mid-20th century, the church struggled and was sold to a private owner. The building began to decay by the 1970s and was later sold in 1996 to Barbara and Eric Rudd to house artist Eric Rudd’s installation entitled “A Chapel for Humanity”. The building is currently used as the Berkshire Art Museum Annex.