Trinity Church, Boston (1) & Shadyside Presbyterian Mother & Daughter Churches


We can reasonably consider Shadyside Presbyterian to be a daughter church of Trinity Church, Boston , architecturally speaking.  Trinity is the design of Henry Hobson Richardson.  Members of his office staff and successor firm, Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge (SR&C), designed Shadyside.  Only Charles Rutan, an engineer and construction superintendent, was present for both.  The family resemblance is strong between mother and daughter, both being lantern churches.  What, then, of Shadyside’s sisters – other churches designed by SR&C?  There are several to consider, although some of them exist only on paper.  (See also Shadyside's Second Cousins)



Immanuel Baptist Church, Newton, MA (1) "The Crazy Aunt"


Before looking at the resemblance with the sisters, it is well to acquaint ourselves with what we might call Shadyside’s “crazy aunt,” Immanuel Baptist Church in Newton , MA .  This may be a harsh description, but the church’s appearance is quite uncharacteristic of Richardson ’s work.  Following Trinity by 12 years, Immanuel looks awkward by comparison.  It seems too tall for its breadth.  Its tower and “witch hat” roof are out of proportion with each other and with the structure as a whole.  For an examination of Immanuel’s development, see the latter part of the article Courthouse Connections.  Immanuel is Richardson ’s only executed lantern church beside Trinity.  At Shadyside and her sisters, SR&C clearly used Trinity as a starting point rather than Immanuel.






Early SR&C Design for Stanford Memorial Church(2)




Early Stanford Tower, Trinity, Old Salamanca Cathedral (2)


Stanford Memorial, perhaps SR&C’s first church design, began to take shape late in 1886, less than half a year after Richardson ’s death.  Commissioned by Leland Stanford and his wife for the university they founded, the church was not actually built until 1903, to a design much modified by another architect.  Stanford Memorial seems patterned less on Trinity’s lantern than on the Old Salamanca Cathedral (which may be Trinity’s model).  Stanford’s twelve-sided tower approximates a round cylinder, as opposed to the Boston church’s emphatically square shape.



Stanford Memorial Tower, Coolidge rendering (2)


Later designs adopted the square in part and increased the lantern’s size proportionally to the balance of the church.  This proportion is closer to Trinity where, according to Richardson , “the tower became, as it were, the church.”  Charles Allerton Coolidge’s wonderful pencil study of the Stanford tower clearly depicts the “repose” that his tutor desired for buildings.  This sketch dates from mid-1887, about a year before studies were begun by SR&C for Shadyside.  In their Shadyside design, the square totally consumes the round and a radical simplification of the massing and roof shape takes place.



Stanford Memorial, Hodges Design, As Built (2)


Design completion and construction of Stanford Memorial were delayed by the death of Leland Stanford and an uncertain economy.  Direction of the project passed to Mrs. Stanford and her brother, who eventually dismissed SR&C in favor of Charles Hodges.  The realized design must have chagrined Coolidge.  The Hodges lantern tower returned to a thinner, rounder shape and assumed a fussiness never seen in the SR&C development.  The flying buttresses did little to tie the tower to the transepts and nothing to strengthen the structure.  Perhaps fortuitously (perhaps providentially), an earthquake destroyed this tower a few years after completion – never to be rebuilt.


SR&C Shadyside Presbyterian Presentation Drawing Enlarged View



A magnificent presentation rendering by Hugh Garden shows SR&C’s 1895 church and chapel proposal for Second Presbyterian Church in St. Louis .  This view, from nearly the identical perspective as Shadyside’s presentation drawing, shows influences of both the Stanford and Pittsburgh churches.  The massive tower assumes a proportion to the transepts and narthex much like the one that was so successful at Shadyside.  Second Presbyterian’s round (now sixteen-sided) tower sits on a square base that is much truncated from Coolidge’s late Stanford composition.  Had this SR&C church been built, it would have rivaled Shadyside in sense of repose.  In both designs, the tower is the church.  (Garden's rendering technique here is remarkable - the drawing sparkles.  His skill is rivaled only by Daniel A. Gregg, Harvey Ellis and Charles Maginnis.)



Second Presbyterian Church, St. Louis, SR&C Competition Drawing (1) Enlarged View


This scale is important to both the St. Louis and Pittsburgh settings, in residential neighborhoods.  They are dignified and monumental without overpowering surrounding homes.  In an odd coincidence, both churches are at Westminster Place .  There is some indication that these streets were given their distinctively Presbyterian names before the churches located there. 


Garden’s depiction includes the chapel to the left of the church proper.  This is the only part of the SR&C design actually built.  While its basic form survived, the masonry treatment changed significantly.  The drawing shows random ashlar with polychrome accents and banding.  The actual chapel uses uniformly-coursed, alternating-width masonry that was later used on the church.




SR&C Chapel & Link Church (3)


The church, as construction started in 1898, was redesigned by Theodore Link, a well-known and talented St. Louis architect.  Link reduced the tower size and extended the narthex-nave to a proportion much longer than the earlier proposal.  The uniformity of stonework clearly places the structure in Victorian rather than medieval context.  Link was one of a handful of architects who practiced Richardsonian Romanesque in a manner worthy of its originator.




Within 15 miles of Immanuel Baptist in Newton , SR&C proposed a design for another Baptist church in Malden .  The setting recalls Shadyside and St. Louis , but for a more modest corner tower church.  The presentation drawing suffers by comparison with the quality of those for Stanford, Shadyside and St. Louis .  Like Shadyside, the drawing shows a future church addition to the right and a Shingle Style parsonage to the left.



SR&C Proposed Baptist Church, Malden Competition Drawing (1)


While the plan of this church cannot be discerned from the drawing, it could be cruciform, “L” or “T” shaped.  Since the window on the left is most prominent, we may presume that the main axis of the worship space bisects this window.  If this is so, the tower as a main entrance is somewhat confusing, as it has only indirect access to the principal worship space.



Richardson's Albany City Hall Tower (4)


The tower itself may be read as a truncation of Richardson ’s Albany City Hall tower with its engaged turret.  At Malden , the turret appears to enclose a stairwell, articulated by masonry details and window placement.  Indeed, nearly every feature depicted finds precedent on a Richardson building.  SR&C handle the scale and location of these details much more successfully than other Richardsonian practitioners.  It is unclear, however, whether their mentor’s careful planning of interior spaces was applied here.





SR&C First Parish Church, Brookline (1)


Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge executed a more successful design for the Unitarian First Parish Church in fashionable Brookline where Richardson ’s home and practice had been.  ( Richardson ’s great-grandfather, Joseph Priestly, was an early adherent of the Unitarian movement.)  This structure (completed 1892) is a near contemporary of Shadyside and, while it is a quite different church, it shows a similar clarity of design.  First Parish has a cruciform plan with short transepts.  The corner entrance tower adjoins a colonnade placed below a rose window.  In this respect, it resembles First Unitarian in Philadelphia by Frank Furness of a decade earlier, but is refined by comparison.



Furness, First Unitarian, Philadelphia


While First Parish uses rough stone, the masonry is everywhere controlled and contained by the wall planes.  There is a clear step away from Richardson in this respect and in the thinner (yet still substantial) walls.  The gabled main mass is broad to begin with and colonnades on two sides enhance the appearance of stability.  In addition to the tower, the church is anchored at the opposite corner by a low pavilion.  Where Trinity and Shadyside are monumental, the Brookline church is pastoral.


First Parish has a fine Norman tower.  Even so, the structure resembles, not a Norman parish church, but a refined Gothic Early English example with round-arch openings.  While this may or may not be an anachronism, the strains of eclecticism in American architecture accepted such, and happily so in this case.  Here, we see SR&C finding their own way.  Shadyside may be considered as their composition using many Richardson features.  First Parish is the young firm’s own take on adapting Romanesque for an American congregation.




Shadyside and her four sisters demonstrate that Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge were competent church designers in their own right.  The Malden project shows that they stumbled.  But then, Newton shows that Richardson did, as well.  It is interesting to speculate where SR&C would have taken the Romanesque Revival.  The style’s dominant but brief influence on the American scene was ended by unskilled practitioners and a Renaissance Revival.  The talent we find in these examples allowed the firm to survive Richardson ’s death, a national recession of the 1890s and the continued churning of architectural tastes.  (See also Shadyside's Second Cousins)






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(1) Courtesy Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson & Abbot, Boston , successor firm to H H Richardson and Shepley Rutan & Coolidge

(2) Paul V. Turner, The Founders & the Architects, The Design of Stanford University , Stanford, Ca, 1976

(3) Photos from Mary G. Bard, Second Presbyterian Church, A History 1838-1988, St. Louis , 1987, generously provided by the church.


(4) Courtesy Mary Ann Sullivan