Shadyside's Second Cousins


 

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We have examined Shadyside Church ’s “Sisters” – Richardsonian churches designed by Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge.  The “lantern church,” introduced in the US at Trinity Church , Boston , was adopted my many congregations – designed by many architects.  They are related, but with different architectural parentage, not immediate family.  Here, we look at several notable examples under the heading “Shadyside’s Second Cousins.”

ST JAMES’S, CAMBRIDGE

 

St James's Episcopal Church, Cambridge, MA (1)

Perhaps it is not surprising to find one of the most successful lantern churches within five miles of Trinity.  St. James’s Episcopal was built in 1888 for a Cambridge , MA , congregation which, like Trinity, preferred “Low Church” liturgy.  The central emphasis of a lantern suits this worship sensibility, where preaching the Word rivals the Eucharist in importance.

The architect, Henry Congdon, was talented and influential through a long career.  Here, he shows an uncommon grasp of Richardson ’s sense of proportion in picturesque buildings.  Rambling and asymmetrical, picturesque architecture is well suited to buildings that house disparate functions and need to accommodate expansion.

  

St James's (left), Trinity Church Boston (right) (4)

The St. James’s lantern tower is its dominant feature, but it is not the totality of the church to the degree of the Trinity and Shadyside lanterns.  The exterior treatment expands upon the polychromy of Trinity by use of multi-hued Nova Scotia brown freestone in uncoursed, random ashlar.  Contrasting in color and texture are the pressed brick surrounds and string courses and red sandstone buttress caps and central tower.  Gray slate covers the roofs as well as the tapered square lower tower.  (This use of roof material on vertical surfaces echoes the then-popular, mostly residential Shingle Style.)

 

St James's (left), Shadyside (right)

The “battered” (that is, slope-sided) lower tower is topped by the window arcades, stepped in with a sharp contrast of material.  The pyramid shaped roof is “sprung” (curved outward) at its lower edges – another picturesque touch seen two years later at Shadyside.  A tenet of the Arts and Crafts movement is honesty of construction.  At St James’s, the interior of the tower faithfully reflects its exterior shape (more than at Trinity).  The lantern’s smaller proportional size clearly leads to a contrast in lighting with Shadyside.  The source of light is markedly more localized and its passage through the darker, narrower lower tower imparts a more ethereal effect.  This shape and the exposed wooden construction evoke a Norwegian stave church.

 

St James's (left), Shadyside (right)

The architectural importance of this structure is recognized in the application for landmark designation by the Cambridge Historical Commission.  This active church, with a history of more than 140 years, has undertaken efforts to preserve its building.

ST JOHN THE EVANGELIST, SAN FRANCISCO

While St James’s made allusion to the Shingle Style, the Church of St. John the Evangelist adopted it outright to clothe a lantern church of Richardsonian Romanesque/Byzantine inspiration.  Completed in 1891,  it was designed by Earnest Coxhead, an architect trained in England who moved to California in 1887.  By the 90s, the Shingle Style had reached its peak popularity on the East Coast, but continued to develop in the Midwest and West Coast.

 

Shingle Style House, Pittsburgh

Primarily a residential style, it wrapped rambling structures in wooden shingles without sharp terminations at the intersections of wall planes.  A number of churches used this technique, often departing from the Colonial inspiration normally found in houses for massing and details.  At St. John , Coxhead combined two styles pioneered by H. H. Richardson.

 

Shingle Style Church, Massachusetts

The photograph of the church (below) makes it appear massive.  The clues to scale - a man on the sidewalk and adjacent buildings - reveal a compact structure.  Despite the proportionally large lantern, the interior effect was apparently cramped.  Coxhead’s friend, artist Ernest Peixotto described the interior as evoking a sense “like Gulliver in the land of the Lilliputians.”

 

Church of St. John the Evangelist, San Francisco (2)

Coxhead’s domed interior was not true to the exterior shape of the tower.  This led to an inefficient and confusing path for light into the sanctuary.  Another criticism was that, like Shadyside, some seats in the transepts did not have a view of the Table in the chancel.  However, the St. John nave (like St. James’s) elicited a sense of the mystical – important to Anglican tradition, high church or low.  Whatever its shortcomings, this interesting church was regrettably destroyed in 1906.

 

FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH, COLORADO SPRINGS

First Congregational Church, Colorado Springs (3)

For one who has studied lantern churches, the initial impression of First Congregational Church in Colorado Springs , CO , is one of caricature.  The tower roof assumes the form of a rakish “witches hat.”  Clipping the corners may have been intended to reduce the sense of mass of a true pyramid – a step which Shadyside demonstrates to have been unnecessary.  While the general massing is Richardsonian, details are an eclectic combination of Gothic, Romanesque, Mission and (inside) Arts and Crafts.

 

This 1889 church was a collaboration of Henry Rutgers Marshall (a competent New York architect), Robert Roeschlaub (a Colorado practitioner) and Joseph Dozier (a contractor).  Whatever the individual contributions, the square tower  is not honestly expressed by an eight sided interior.  As if to distract attention, it has a frenetic and gingerbread-laden ceiling treatment.  The ample central volume, however, provides the preaching auditorium that suited so many Protestant churches in this era.

 

THE SECOND COUSINS

 

It is not clear why the proliferation of lantern churches waited a decade after the successful prototype at Trinity Church , Boston , just after the death of its designer.  The three churches here are nearly exact contemporaries of Shadyside.  Whatever the reason for the delay, four architects took up the example and produced four distinctly different, yet related, second cousins.  The four applied the lantern to four building programs, with varying success.  St. James’s and Shadyside demonstrate that it worked well for both Episcopal and Reformed churches.  St. John and Colorado Springs demonstrate that it was not a sure bet for either.

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(1) Photographs of St. James's Church were generously provided by Laine Walters

(2) Richard Longstreth, On the Edge of the World, Univ. of California Press, 1983

(3) Robert Winter & Alexander Vertikoff, Craftsman Style, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2004

(4) Photo by Mary Ann Sullivan http://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/index/index.html