Next door to the Inn Victoria, the beautiful St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Chester, VT, stands out as one of the only Gothic Revival buildings in the town. A small group of residents gathered in the 1860s to found a Episcopal church in the town, which already had a dominant Congregational church. They furnished money which was matched by the diocese, and Merrick Wentworth was named senior warden. Members of his family and that of Frederick Fullerton, his son-in-law, formed a large part of the congregation. Frederick and Philette Wentworth Fullerton donated a building site across the street from their home (featured previously), and Mr. Wentworth’s nephew, Boston architect, William P. Wentworth, contributed plans for a Gothic-style frame church, which includes a tall corner belltower.
A very rare example of a snecked ashlar church, the South Reading Union Meeting House in Reading, Vermont remains in a great state of preservation, and a testament to innovative building styles seen in rural parts of New England. Built in 1844, the stone church was built by local stone masons based on the unique regional stone construction method. The church features a triangular stone in the facade which shows its construction date. There is something so stunning about stone churches..
The building that gives Burlington’s iconic Church Street its name is this, the Unitarian Church of Burlington. One of the most stunning Federal style churches in New England, the church is the oldest surviving place of worship in Burlington, built in 1816. The church was designed by English architect Peter Banner (possibly with assistance of Charles Bulfinch), years after his crowning achievement, the Park Street Church in Boston was completed. From the head of Church Street, the church oversaw the growth of Burlington from a small lakefront town to the largest city in the state. In August 1954, the church steeple was struck by lightning, causing it to shift over two feet in a matter of months, unknown to the congregation and public. It was decided that due to concerns the steeple may collapse through the building, it was selectively demolished and reconstructed. The church remains an active part in the city and architectural landmark for Burlington.
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.
Have you ever heard of a church becoming a library? Well you have now! Built in 1897 for the Univeralist Unitarian Congregation in Richmond, Vermont, this imposing building stands as a rare high-style Gothic church design for such a small town. The congregation occupied the building until the dwindling population in town made it no longer feasible to keep the doors open, closing in 1956. When the congregation disbanded, the building was sold to a Richmond resident who then offered the property to the Richmond School District, which had its large school next door. Voters accepted the gift at Town Meeting and passed a bond to convert the building into a cafeteria and gymnasium for the school next door. In the mid-1980s, with a new school in town, the school building was abandoned and converted to the Town Hall. The gymnasium and cafeteria in the former church was no longer needed, and some in town proposed to demolish it to build a new, modern library. Preservationists petitioned to save the building, acquiring funds to restore the exterior and convert it to a library. They won. The library operates here to this day as a unique place for residents young and old to read and learn in an architectural treasure.
The Old Round Church in Richmond, Vermont, was built in 1812-13 under the direction of local craftsman William Rhodes to be the Town Meeting Hall and place of worship for members of five denominations in the area. While the church is known as the Old Round Church, it is actually a sixteen-sided polygon, but I think it is safe to say the Old Round Church sounds better than the Old Hexadecagon Church… Traditionally, 18th- and 19th-century meetinghouses were rectangular in form and many followed popular builders’ pattern books which standardized the rectangular Wren-Gibbs architectural type. Experimentation was generally limited to decorative detail, steeples, porches or the orientation of the entrance, and not to the form, which is why this building is so unique. Within a few decades of the church’s opening, the founding denominations began to move out, some of them to build worship places elsewhere in town. In 1880, the Old Round Church reverted to the Town of Richmond and continued in use as the town’s meeting hall until 1973, at which time safety concerns forced its closure to the public.The Richmond Historical Society was formed in 1973, shortly before the church had to be closed and in 1976, the town deeded the church to the society, who then gathered funds to restore the building, protecting it from a much darker future. The Old Round Church remains one of the most unique architectural designs in Vermont and is always a treat to drive by in all seasons!
The Universalist Society of Strafford, founded in 1798, is the second oldest in Vermont and fourth oldest in the nation. In the early years, Universalists met in Strafford’s Town House, sharing the building with other denominations. Eventually the Universalists, Baptists, and Congregationalists all built their own churches, with the Universalists building a structure in 1833 in South Strafford Village. The white clapboarded church sits high on a hill with a gorgeous belfry and large stained glass windows.
Perched atop a hill at the edge of the town common in Strafford, Vermont, the Strafford Town House epitomizes rural New England charm. The town house was constructed in 1799 by local carpenters as a place to do public business and served for a brief period in the early days as a meeting house for various local congregations. The building is one of the oldest meeting houses in Vermont and was one of the first meeting houses to put the entrance at the tower-end and the pulpit at the other end of the building. The change from a side-entrance orientation reflected a time when New Englanders were clearly deciding to separate their political business from their ecclesiastical affairs.