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First Baptist Church

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1884–1887, J. B. Goodwin; Lodowick C. Shippee, builder. Peirce St. at Montrose St.
  • First Baptist Church (John M. Miller)

Queen Anne design typically alters the expected scale of colonial ornamentation. Here the alteration is excessive. On the two principal elevations for the corner location, ranges of tall windows are topped at their centers by semicircular openings to suggest giant Palladian elements. Bloated broken scroll motifs topped by diminutive urns surround the semicircles. The entrance occurs at the corner, which was originally capped by a steeple. The loss leaves a mini-cupola over the center of the church as its “tower,” plus another octagonal turret on Melrose Street as the compositional anchor for a picturesque cluster of windows at the entrance to the attached parish house.

The space inside seems influenced by both the seventeenth-century square-plan preaching box and the nineteenth-century preaching auditorium. But the corner entrance vestibule establishes a spatial bite from the corner of the square which, when duplicated around the square, converts it to a stubby Greek cross. Except for the substitution of stained glass for clear across the lower range of windows and for repainting, most of the interior remains intact, including a pretty Queen Anne structural X across the center of the cross, sprung from wall brackets and more mock than real. Somewhat heavy-handed in its whimsy, this church nevertheless fascinates for its invention.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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