Designed by Richard Upjohn and built in 1856, All Saints Episcopal Church is a well-articulated Gothic Revival structure that reflects Frederick’s emergence as a refined urban center of western Maryland. It was one of eight significant churches that were enlarged or rebuilt in Frederick during the mid-nineteenth century, and the third church building erected by this congregation. The construction of the current All Saints Church was motivated primarily by a newfound awareness of architectural styles in what appears to have been a competition among local religious groups to create the most sophisticated church design. The selection of Upjohn, the only nationally prominent architect to engage in the design one of the city’s new churches, signals a vision beyond its parishioners’ once-rural community. According to historian Diane Shaw, church construction played a critical role in the architectural transformation of Frederick from small town to urban center. All Saints’ soaring brick spire was among those that helped transform the city skyline and distinguish Frederick from the surrounding rural villages. The prominence of All Saints as a city landmark was further guaranteed by its strategic location towards the center of a newly defined Church Street, directly across from Frederick’s civic courthouse and public square.
Frederick began in the 1740s as a speculative venture and by the mid-nineteenth century had emerged as the urban trade and transportation center for the largely agricultural Piedmont region of Maryland. Its growth was spurred by the development of a major transportation network that included the National Road and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Taking advantage of the agricultural richness of the region, the city’s economic base included a thriving milling industry and later expanded to include canning factories. Other mid- to late-nineteenth-century industries included iron and steel, textiles, brickmaking, and brush manufacture. Designated the seat of the newly formed Frederick County in 1742, the city grew to become the second largest in Maryland for most of the nineteenth century. Its wealth prompted civic and municipal improvements, and the development of a distinctive architectural landscape, including All Saints Episcopal Church.
The Gothic Revival design of All Saints reflects not only the city’s increasing wealth and sophistication, but also the influence of the Ecclesiological Movement upon the English-born Upjohn. The movement, spearheaded by the Cambridge Camden Society beginning in 1839, was a response to reforms within the Anglican Church that called for a return to medieval church designs as a way of also revitalizing the early rituals and liturgical practices held within. As a result, the Gothic Revival became the prevalent style of mid-nineteenth-century Episcopal churches. Upjohn was perhaps the nation’s foremost proponent of the style, with plans ranging in complexity from Trinity Church in Manhattan to his acclaimed pattern book designs for simpler Carpenter Gothic rural parish churches—All Saints falls between these two interpretations.
While elegantly understated, All Saints Episcopal Church includes definitive features of the Gothic Revival such as its high vaults and steeply pitched roof, articulated side aisles with clerestory windows, buttresses, lancet windows, drip moldings, entry tower, and soaring octagonal spire with bell-cote and foliated finial. It is built of common-bond brick with brownstone capstones, lintels, sills, and other trimmings. The interior includes the open trusswork also characteristic of Upjohn and the Gothic Revival. The church rests on a high fieldstone foundation, and has a slate roof. Although it does not possess the side porch entry favored by the Ecclesiologists—perhaps due in part to its urban setting fronting a prominent street—a nod to that tradition may be the single tower to one side of the central entry and spire (a doorway into the front elevation of the opposing side aisle also exists). It does, however, include the requisite, visibly distinctive chancel where the Eucharistic liturgy is conducted.
Pierson, William H., Jr. American Buildings and Their Architects; Technology and the Picturesque, The Corporate and the Early Gothic Styles. New York: Doubleday, 1978.
Shaw, Diane. “Building an Urban Identity: The Clustered Spires of Frederick, Maryland.” Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture5 (1995): 55-69.
Williams, Peter W. Houses of God; Region, Religion, and Architecture in the United States. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1997.