Mount Vernon Congregational Church // 1892 & 1984

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?

Mount Vernon Church // 1844-1968

The stunning Mount Vernon Church in Boston was built in 1844 in the very popular Greek Revival architectural style at the edge of Beacon Hill. Located on Ashburton Place, the granite church, designed by famed architect Richard Bond, had just 47 members at its inception led by pastor Edward N. Kirk. The congregation ballooned to 1,600 members until Kirk’s death in 1871, slowly decreasing after that. The church in 1892, followed the shifting Boston population to the developed Back Bay neighborhood and built a new place of worship at the corner of Beacon Street and Massachusetts Avenue. Ever-dwindling membership caused the church to become absorbed by the established Old South Church in 1970. The second Mount Vernon church in Back Bay burned in 1978, and was redeveloped into Church Court Condominiums by architect Graham Gund in 1983.

Ca. 1895 image of Mount Vernon Church as Isaac Rich Hall courtesy of BPL.

Back to the original building… After the church relocated to the Back Bay, the building was acquired by Boston University Law School and renamed Isaac Rich Hall, after an original founder of Boston University. The former church was renovated to contain a lecture hall, library, classrooms and offices (talk about adaptive reuse!) The granite building with its symmetrical facade was razed by 1968 for the more mundane (and tall) McCormack Office Building on Ashburton Place.