1937-38 Remodeling at Shadyside & Trinity Church


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Charles D. Magginis Presentation Drawing  Trinity Chancel

(From The Makers of Trinity Church in the City of Boston  James F. O'Gorman, ed., Univ of Massachusetts Press)

Shadyside stands prominently in the line of Romanesque Lantern churches that stems from Trinity Church.   In The Makers of Trinity Church in the City of Boston (University of Massachusetts Press, 2004), essayist Milda Richardson details the 1937-38 chancel remodeling there. I am struck by the remarkable similarities with the exactly contemporaneous sanctuary redesign here.

Where there were differences, the two chancels became more similar.  Trinity’s deep chancel was always enclosed in a semicircular apse.  Originally, Shadyside  had a central pulpit backed immediately by the organ console and pipes.  Our spacious chancel and small apse were 1937 additions.  From the beginning, Trinity was known as a “color church”  featuring rich brilliant hues throughout.  Significant color came to Shadyside with Rudolf Scheffler’s mosaic.

Where the chancels were initially similar, the changes moved in the same direction.  Both began with wooden communion tables.  Trinity replaced theirs with a carved stone altar (more typical for an Episcopal congregation).  Shadyside’s communion table became stone, in a design some see as reminiscent of an altar.  In both remodels, these tables were elevated and moved toward liturgical East.

Both churches replaced wooden chancel rails with light-colored carved stone ones.  Both provided space for choirs at the sides of the chancel.  In the apse dome, Shadyside has a mosaic of the Transfigured Christ.  In the analogous location, Trinity had planned a depiction (unexecuted) of the Ascendant Christ.

Influence of one design on the other seems precluded by their simultaneity.  Shadyside, by the Philadelphia firm Wilson Eyre & McIlvane, was dedicated at Easter 1938.  Trinity’s remodel, designed by Charles Maginnis (Boston), was ready by year’s end, 1938.

One intriguing, if tenuous, connection exists.  Shadyside member Elizabeth Macfarlane, noted in a letter to her parents, that her distant cousin Charles Marcus Osborn was designing the chancel furniture both for our church and nearby Heinz Chapel.  Unclear about his employer, she states that previously he had worked for Boston’s Ralph Adams Cram.  The famous Cram had been an unsuccessful competitor for the design of Trinity’s 1937 chancel remodeling.

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