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.
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?
On September 15, 1847, a ship carrying 66 men and women and children docked at Long Wharf in Boston. This group of ex-slaves, led by Rev. Peter Randolph, emancipated by their former slave master Carter H. Edlow from the Brandon Plantation in Prince Georges County, Virginia. Members of the Boston Anti-Slavery Society, led by William Lloyd Garrison met the newcomers and made them welcome by securing lodging and work for self-support. The group settled in the South End on Ottaway Court not far from the Holy Cross Cathedral. The group first joined the Twelfth Baptist Church of Boston before establishing their own congregation. They eventually occupied this church in 1887, the building was designed by architect Nathaniel Bradlee in 1860, which was built for what was then the Third Presbyterian Church of Boston. The church has remained here for nearly 150 years, seeing the rapid change in the neighborhood. The church building accommodated meetings including the Professional Black Women’s Business Club, which bolstered Black women in business, many members owned stores in the South End. Many members left the area amid growing gentrification in the 1980s and 1990s, and from that, the aging population remaining made keeping the doors open difficult. Sadly, the church relocated out of the building in 2020 and appears to have sold the building, leaving its future uncertain.
St. Paul’s Church in Burlington, Vermont, was organized in 1830, when Burlington’s population was about 3,500. About 55 Episcopalians met at a local hotel and laid the groundwork for the parish. In 1832, the fledgling parish dedicated its new building, a neo-Gothic limestone structure, which was enlarged multiple times as the congregation grew as the city did. In 1965, the Diocesan Convention voted that St. Paul’s Church be designated a Cathedral Church of the Diocese (one of two in the state). Just six years later, it was destroyed by fire, sparked by an electrical malfunction in the basement, leading to a new evolution of the church. At the time of the fire, the City of Burlington was engaged in massive urban renewal projects. As a part of this program, the City offered to swap the land on which Old St. Paul’s had stood for a spacious new tract overlooking Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. Although the decision to change locations was a contentious one, the parish did accept the offer. When discussing designs for a new cathedral, there was a strong desire to make a new statement in architecture, diverging from the traditional Gothic or Colonial designs seen all over the country. An international competition was held to determine the architect of the new Cathedral. The winner was the local firm Burlington Associates, now Truex, Cullins & Partners. Completed in 1973, the Cathedral is made of stressed concrete. The structure stands strong and firm, yet is welcoming. Windows provide sweeping views of Lake Champlain and the distant Adirondacks.
This beautifully designed Romanesque Revival church consists of a large rectangular block with a steeply pitched gable roof and a square tower surmounted by a spire. The church is constructed of Willard’s Ledge stone (a locally quarried purplish limestone) with trimmings of Isle La Motte grey sandstone from quarries north of Burlington. This church is the only Romanesque Revival style church in the city and just one of four pre-1880 churches in Burlington. Architect Alexander R. Esty (1826-1881) designed the building and was a noted New England architect working during the late nineteenth century. He was trained in Boston and opened his own office in 1850 in Framingham, Massachusetts. The congregation remains active and welcoming.
The Richmond Congregational Church, built in 1903, is one of the most prominent architectural landmarks in town. The church desired a new place of worship by the end of the 19th century, to replace the outdated 1850s building. Significantly, the building of this 1903 structure corresponded with a period of prosperity for Richmond, generated in large part by the advent of the Richmond Underwear Company in 1900. The Company had come to Richmond at the behest of local officials and business leaders, who provided the company with financial incentives in the hope of fostering economic opportunity, which it did. Additional housing for workers was built on the former church land, and money from the sale helped the congregation get enough funding to hire an architect to furnish plans. The Richmond Congregational Church was designed by one of the few professionally-trained architects working in Vermont at the turn of the century. Walter R. B. Willcox (1869-1947) was a Burlington, Vermont, native who was trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania. He eventually moved to the Pacific Northwest and continued his career there.
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.
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.
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.
One of the oldest extant homes (and one of my favorites) in Hollis, NH is this charming gambrel-roofed Georgian built in 1768. The home was built for Deacon Daniel Emerson Jr., the son of Reverend Daniel Emerson, who was the first minister in Hollis (his home was the last post). Besides serving as the Deacon for the Congregational Church, Daniel Jr. (1746-1820) also was Coroner and High Sheriff of Hillsborough County. He was Captain of the Hollis Company that went to Ticonderoga in July 1776 returning a year later. The home retains the massive central chimney, a common feature in older homes, to radiate heat to the entire home from the central heat source.