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North Foster Free Baptist Church

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1848, Nelson B. Bowen, builder. 1868, remodeling of the interior and addition to the north. 1955, addition and further remodeling. 158 East Killingly Rd. (at Paine Rd.)

Here on this elevated site, at a T-intersection, Greek Revival makes a self-conscious effort to be dramatically monumental. All features are exploded, especially the center window with its stack of eight-over-eight-over-sixteen-paned sash, which become twelve-over-twelve along the sides. (The too-narrow shutters, later addenda, are ribboned distractions.) In keeping with this grandeur, detailing is more sophisticated. Door frames are paneled with flush corner squares. The paneling of the doors themselves derives from monumental rather than domestic precedent, unlike the churches just visited. A specific allusion to Greek entablatures caps the giant paneled pilasters which bound the front, and the entablature extends the length of the sides. There is some incongruity, perhaps, in the uncapped entrances visà-vis the emphatic capping of the corner piers and in the full-fledged entablature at the sides vis-à-vis the simple vernacular gable in front (where a more sophisticated practitioner in the style might have extended the entablature across the front, topped it by a pediment, and halved the verticality of the window). The intensity of the “Greek” inflection doubtless also owes much to the date of this building at the height of the movement, before the explicit stylistic character became diluted and reduced to an expected image of monumentality. But there is a poignant charm about the rather explosive and inconsistent attempt at monumentality in the Grecian manner that makes this, the earliest in the series, the grandest by far of Foster's collection of Greek Revival churches.

The vernacular loses its own sure instincts in the belfry. Although it is well scaled, its paired pilasters are underarticulated, and the horizontal clapboarded band under its cap is so awkward that it appears to be a careless later repair. During the 1955 renovation which connected the parish house (1868) to the church itself, the major entrance was shifted from the front of the church to a covered entrance at the junction of the church and its wing to serve the entire complex. The church entrance is now on the former rear wall, and the pulpit was moved to the wall behind the front elevation, thus effectively sealing it. Although evidence of the original interior exists, successive renovations have not been kind to its preservation.

Writing Credits

Author: 
William H. Jordy et al.

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