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St. Luke's Episcopal Church

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1875–1876. 1920–1923, spire, Clarke and Howe.
  • St. Luke's Episcopal Church (John M. Miller)

Few churches were built in Rhode Island during the economically stagnant mid-1870s. Rather than exhibiting markedly High Victorian characteristics, as might be expected of an up-to-the-minute design of the 1870s, this looks back to the revival of the Gothic English parish church which had developed in the 1850s and 1860s as a deliberate effort on the part of eccle-siologists to return to the ancient medieval pieties of Anglican ritual. On the exterior, shapes, simple and austere but also picturesque, count for more than detail. The high gabled mass in rock-faced granite is minimally interrupted by a tiny trefoil clerestory before the roof slides out at a lesser pitch over wide aisles. The charm of the textured mass is enhanced by an attached burial ground at the church's east end with a lych-gate—rare in Rhode Island, although St. Colomba's Chapel in Middletown provides another example. And of course the much later addition of the squat tower topped by a stone steeple at one corner of the nave works to the same picturesque end.

But the principal interest is the well-preserved interior, the too-white repainting and some later fittings notwithstanding. Worth special notice are the handsome straightforwardness of the bracketed structure which fans from the capitals of the polished granite columns to support clerestory windows the length of the space and roofing for aisles and nave (the latter by scissor framing) across it. Remarkable too is the stained glass, dating from the 1870s through the 1980s. Most immediately noticeable are two sets of Tiffany glass, opposite each other in the second bay west of the chancel: an opalescent, scenographic set (1910) on the north, and an organic, geometric set (c. 1890) on the south. Also especially deserving of attention is the Wright Goodhue Tobias and the Angel (1924), the northernmost window on the west wall. In the entrance wall, a pair of windows celebrates the two Greenwiches: Sir Christopher Wren's palace at Greenwich appears beside the State House at East Greenwich, with appropriate nautical embellishments around both. St. Luke's is among the finest examples of country Gothic in the state—countrified, but in the sophisticated manner of a worldly town.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


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William H. Jordy et al., "St. Luke's Episcopal Church", [East Greenwich, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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