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Chepachet Freewill Baptist Church and Parsonage

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1821, church, Clark Sayles, builder. c. 1821, parsonage. 1213 Putnam Pk.

Chepachet is fortunate in having the two finest nineteenth-century churches in Glocester, this one on the west end of the town and the Chepachet Union Church ( GL14) on the east end. They handsomely epitomize country churches in the respective styles in which they were built.

Typical of the Federal continuation of the Wren-Gibbs ecclesiastical format, Freewill Baptist is a tall, gabled box above a stepped granite platform, fronted by a projecting pedimented centerpiece which frames three recessed doors, the center one dominant, with three twelve-over-twelve-paned windows above. Simple fanlights decorated with wooden spoking over the doors, each capped with moldings and keystones and echoed by another fan in the pediment, are the only adornment. The spire intersects the planes of the projecting front elevation and the body of the meeting hall in a straightforward statement of the triple function of the church spire: as base (with another twelve-over-twelve window), belfry (with open arches), and stubby, polygonal spire. The principal pieces of the composition combine with a certain abrupt awkwardness, but with compelling vigor, too.

Although the interior retains some of its original features, they are diminished by an accumulation of unsympathetic changes. To the rear, carriage barns remain. The itinerant builder, Clark Sayles, also designed two nearby churches in this style: one begun a year earlier for Greenville, and one for North Scituate (where Baptists briefly joined with Congregationalists), begun a decade later ( SM11 and SC1).

The adjacent parsonage has a transomed and side-lighted door, recessed like those of the church. This entrance displays a delightfully simple reeded treatment in its door frame, broken at the top corners, and again in between, for square and rectangular blocks inscribed with rosettes. Precedent for this entrance design appears to derive more from mantel motifs than from door frames. Enough variants occur among Federal door frames, however, to make it a minor type in the repertoire of Federal design, more especially for interior doorways. Reeded corner pilasters and a lunette window (the latter like that in the church pediment) complete the elevation.

Enlarge the framing elements, substitute plain paneling for reeding and Greek ornamental allusion for rosettes, with the gable ideally transformed to a pediment, and the Federal parsonage would become Greek Revival; some of the commonplace stylistic devices of the later style are already anticipated here. Reeded corner pilasters and a lunette window in the pediment (again like that in the church) complete the elevation.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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