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St. Bridget's Church

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1861, Patrick C. Keely. 28 Church St., West Rutland village

Vermont's first stone Roman Catholic church was built by and for Irish workers drawn to West Rutland in the mid-nineteenth century by the railroad and marble industries. Having outgrown its original frame church in five years, the parish replaced it with this prominent structure that overlooks the town and valley. Its designer, Keely, was the son of an Irish builder and a follower of English architect and theorist A. W. N. Pugin. Keely immigrated to Brooklyn in 1842 and established himself as a specialist in Gothic-style church design, becoming the preeminent architect for the American Catholic Church in the nineteenth century. He is credited with more than six hundred churches nationwide. Keely was the favored designer for the Vermont diocese under Bishop de Goesbriand, and his Vermont buildings ranged from the simple St. Patrick's in Wallingford (1865; 218 N. Main Street) to the elaborate Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Burlington (1863– 1871; burned 1972).

St. Bridget's is a more mature version of Keely's first Vermont church, St. Mary's in St. Albans (1858–1864; 45 Fairfield Street). It shares the straightforward basilican organization, steep roof, dominant central tower, sequence of tower openings, stepped buttresses, traceried lancet windows, quatrefoils, and door detailing. However, it replaces brick construction and applied detail with a more authoritative and integrated marble masonry, and it develops the tower into a splendid two-staged composition crowned by a tall octagonal slate spire with alternating large and small false dormers. The church's construction was a community undertaking, with the marble donated by the Sheldon and Slason Marble Company and the labor provided by quarry laborers working at night. At its dedication in 1861 the bishop praised the church's substantial form, fine proportions, and exquisite interior with structural arches, leaded stained glass, painted and stenciled woodwork, and an elaborate stone Gothic altar. Seven years later, the area would get a second Keely church. When French Canadian Catholics were brought in to break a strike, labor tensions split the parish in Rutland village, and the Irish seceded to build themselves an even more elaborate marble church, St. Peter's in Rutland (1871; 134 Convent Avenue).

Writing Credits

Author: 
Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson
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Citation

Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson, "St. Bridget's Church", [West Rutland, Vermont], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/VT-01-RU45.

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Vermont

Buildings of Vermont, Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013, 86-87.

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