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Swedish-Finnish Lutheran Church (Former)

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c. 1917. 531 Fairmount St. (corner of 7th Ave.)

Fairmount Street is the focal street of Fairmount, laid out in the late 1870s and early 1880s as a working-class subdivision. Like Gloria Dei Church in Providence, this is another of the Scandinavian (usually Lutheran or Methodist) churches located near machine tool plants, to which these skilled immigrants gravitated. (Several such factories existed nearby.) And just as Gloria Dei demonstrates in a large way, and at a slightly later time, the Scandinavian craft sensibility, so this tiny church does so in a small way. Both are exceptions to the plainness of most Scandinavian mill community churches; but whereas the craftsmanship of Gloria Dei derives exclusively from sophisticated Swedish inspiration, this seems to mix more folkish aspects of native handiwork with borrowings from American Arts and Crafts.

Evidences of the craft approach in this curious but charming church appear in the sawn stencil ornamentation at the eaves, the patterning of the roof slate, the turned porch posts, and the coy domestication of medieval allusion. But this prettiness is countered by strange proportions and unexpected combinations, for example, in the swollen dumbbell contours of the stubby porch supports, which are spread farther apart than the allusion to a small domestic “stoop” leads us to expect. The porch is also overly deep. So the little image acquires grand dimensions. Or consider the various uses to which the miniature buttressing in brick against stuccoed walls is put. It steps up the walls to the front, dividing a long band of windows, and supports the roof as one expects it to do. But buttresses also rise on either side of the porch through the roof to become the supports of a bellcote. Again a diminutive image is puffed in scale. On the side elevation, the buttresses step up the wall to either side of a wheel window, taking the measure of its circumference as they merge with it, to become its frame (or perhaps, like calipers, to measure it). This extraordinary building served several other Protestant congregations before its conversion to apartments.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Swedish-Finnish Lutheran Church (Former)", [Woonsocket, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 230-231.

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