The congregation of Old South Church in Boston was gathered in 1669 to serve all who seek a spiritual journey in Christian faith. Completed in 1875, the church’s highly ornate Gothic Revival Style is atypical of a traditional New England congregational church. While architects Charles Amos Cummings and Willard T. Sears‘ design intention was to, “radiate the opulent taste and the sense of optimism and progress of the Industrial Revolution following the Civil War”, the congregation has been recognized for equality and social justice, with such notable congregants as Samuel Sewall who published the first anti-slavery writing in the United States in 1700, The Selling of Joseph. As poet John Greenleaf Whittier eloquently wrote, ‘So long as Boston shall Boston be, And her bay tides rise and fall, Shall freedom stand in the Old South Church, And plead for the rights of all.”
Providing a haven for the Catholic community on the Boothbay Peninsula, Our Lady Queen of Peace has been home to year-round residents as well as seasonal visitors since its dedication in 1926. Its founding parish was a historic mix of immigrants, artists, servants, fishermen, merchants and builders. Stained glass windows honor many of the early families who nurtured Catholic presence in the region.
Inspired by the reliance upon the surrounding sea, its interior takes the shape of an inverted ship’s hull, a symbol of protection. Our Lady’s prominent location near the water provides not only a magnificent view of Boothbay Harbor, but also serves as a beacon for sailors, fisherman and the surrounding community.
Founded in 1729 as the “Church of the Presbyterian Strangers”, the Arlington Street Church is a Unitarian Universalist church, which draws from a variety of religious traditions. While the Unitarian Universalist congregations “tend to retain some Christian traditions, such as Sunday worship with a sermon and the singing of hymns. The extent to which the elements of any particular faith tradition are incorporated into personal spiritual practice is a matter of personal choice for congregants.”(1) Unitarian refers to the belief in one God.
In 1861, the church’s current structure was completed and was the first public building to be constructed on newly filled land in Boston’s Back Bay, sitting on 999 wooden pilings driven into the tidal mud. Architect Arthur Gilman drew inspiration for its exterior from London’s St. Martin-in-the-Fields and its basilica type interior from the Church of the Annunciation in Genoa, Italy. As part of the church’s mission, congregants gather “in love and service for justice and peace.”(2)
Founded in 1850, St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral is the first French-Canadian national parish in the country, established to serve the spiritual needs of French-speaking Canadian Catholic immigrants. Growth of the congregation and emigration into what is now known as Burlington’s Old North End neighborhood fueled plans to build a new church. Designed in 1883 by Rev. Joseph Michaud, a self-taught architect from Montreal, the new church was designed in a grand Baroque style reminiscent of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The new structure took four years to complete, relying greatly upon the construction labor and financial sacrifices of its parishioners, many of whom were of modest means. Dedicated on Easter Sunday in 1887, St. Joseph’s remains the largest church in Vermont with the capacity to seat more than 1,200 worshipers.
Sunday worship services at The Cathedral of St. John were suspended in spring 2012 due to surmounting repairs and a decreasing parishioner base. Protective plastic now wraps its windows, pews and lectern where sermons had been delivered since the Federal style structure with Gothic details was built over 200 years ago in 1810. Silence now replaces the voices of the choir. The Waterford chandelier no longer shines upon the congregation. Named the official seat for the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island in 1929, The Cathedral of St. John has deep roots in Providence. Originally organized in 1722 as King’s Church, nearly three centuries ago, its future is now uncertain.
The African Meeting House on Beacon Hill is the oldest African American extant church in the United States. Built in the Colonial style in 1806 largely by black laborers in the heart of Boston’s African American community, the meetinghouse was a magnet for the free and self-emancipated black community in the new republic’s formative years. The African Meeting House served as a center for the community as a church, school, and public space for celebrations, political and social reform meetings. Its walls hosted key figures in the Abolitionist Movement including William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Maria Stewart, and Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. As the black community migrated to other neighborhoods in the late nineteenth century, the African Meeting House became a Jewish synagogue until 1972 when the Museum of African American History acquired it. Returned to its mid-nineteenth century appearance, the African Meeting House is a testament to black craftsmanship and a symbol for equality and freedom of speech.
Formed in 1732, St. John’s Episcopal Church was first called “Queen’s Chapel” after King George II’s wife, Queen Caroline. After the Revolutionary War, the English reference became unpopular and Queen’s Chapel was given its present name. It’s current structure–the first church to have been built with brick in New Hampshire–was designed by architect Alexander Parris of Portland, Maine and feverishly built by local James Nutter along with other leading Portsmouth craftsmen in 1808. They completed the task in just six short months after a fire destroyed its original wooden structure the previous year.
Aside from its needlepoint covered kneelers and altar rail lovingly maintained by the women of St. John’s, the church houses the oldest pipe organ in the United States, as well as a rare Vinegar Bible gifted from Queen Caroline. Distinctive trompe l’oeil wall painting of architectural and religious imagery was completed in 1848, adding a majestic quality to the sanctuary. St. John’s stands as the oldest Episcopal parish in New Hampshire.
Organized by Puritans in 1639 as the First Society of New Haven, Center Church on the Green is the congregation’s fourth meeting house site. Commonly referred to as Center Church, The First Church of Christ in New Haven was designed in the Federal style by renowned architect Ithiel Town and built between 1812-1814. Refined woodwork and historic enclosed pews are washed in light from the two rows of large windows flanking the sanctuary, which added warmth to the previously unheated space. The distinctive Tiffany stained glass window illustrates New Haven founder Rev. John Davenport preaching his first sermon to the first English settlers, who viewed the locale as the New Jerusalem on Long Island Sound.
Dedicated to self-improvement, the camp meeting movement in the late nineteenth century gave rise to hundreds of buildings for multipurpose community assembly throughout the United States. However, few survive today. The Temple, originally known as “Way of Truth Temple” was built in 1881 to be used for an array of religious, cultural and educational programs in Ocean Park. Its unusual octagonal design was typical of the time and common for “Chautauqua” sites. The natural wood post and beam interior structure harnesses its visitors underneath its umbrella, solidifying a sense of community, nature and peace of mind.
Primarily an assembly center for theatrical presentation, concerts, and community meetings, the B.C. Jordan Memorial Hall sits beside The Temple, Porter Hall, and the Bell Tower on a small parcel of land called Temple Square in Old Orchard Beach. Jordan Hall’s exterior with its commanding Federal Style facade, contrasts sharply with its warm and unembellished interior. Natural wood planking and exposed structural elements pervade Jordan Hall’s interior from floor to ceiling, embodying its camp meeting movement intent—popular in the late 19th century—focusing on self-improvement in a natural setting.