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Roxbury Presbyterian Church

328 Warren Street Roxbury, MA 02119

Built: 1891

Style: Queen Anne and High Victorian Goth



HISTORY

Located at the intersection of Warren and Woodbine Streets, Roxbury Presbyterian Church is a stone Victorian Gothic Church. It is situated in a neighborhood that was once historically part of a picturesque area of rolling hills and fertile farmland near Roxbury's center. Surrounding the structure are densely settled areas containing mid-19th and early 20th century single and multi-family wood frame and masonry housing, all representing a variety of Victorian styles. Across from Warren street is a modern shopping plaza. On top of the church is the bell tower which still stands today as a visible and striking landmark in the area's skyline.

Roxbury Presbyterian Church was built in 1891 after the designs of John C. Spofford and was the fourth Presbyterian Church of South Boston. In the mid-1880s a family of Presbyterians had to walk two miles from Roxbury to South Boston to attend services. As their congregation grew, they decided they needed a closer church to attend. On October 18, 1885, a group of Presbyterians met for worship in Highland Hall at the corner of Warren and Walnut Street; this was the beginning of Roxbury Presbyterian Church.

In the early days of the church the Gilchrist Brothers, late 19th century dry-goods store owners in Roxbury, were prominent members. It is estimated that the Gilchrist family financed half of the Church's constructions. Another huge partner in the Church's construction was William Swanson, the builder, and who the church was dedicated to. In 1911, the basement was added and was called "Gilchrist Hall" in honor of John and Robert Gilchrist.

During the 1930s and under the pastorate of Reverend Samuel A. Jackson, the church began to stand out by helping those who had hit hard times during the Great Depression. Overseas missionary work also received greater emphasis. During WWII years, the church began receiving Black Americans into its membership and integration began in 1936 and continued through the 70s. The church strongly supported Civil Rights during the 1960s. In 1985, the first black and the first the co-pastors of Roxbury Presbyterian Church were Rick and Toby Gillespie-Mobley. Toby was also the first female pastor.

ARCHITECTURE

Roxbury Presbyterian Church is representative of Victorian Gothic stylistic influences of the late 19th century. These influences can be seen in the rough-hewn Roxbury Puddingstone, the pointed-ness of the gables asymmetry, lancet or pointed-arch windows, octagonal tower, and decorative verge boards and turned posts.

The structure hugs the corner of Warren and Woodbine Streets in a low, sprawling manner. It is asymmetrical in elevation and features projecting and regressing surfaces of polygonal or curving bays. The church has steeply pitched rooflines which contribute to the overall heaviness and ruggedness of the church which retains a slight verticality in the pointed polygonal roof tops.

The church rises from a full basement to a second level that contains an auditorium, reception area and ancillary rooms. The church features a steeply pitched traverse gable roof on the western facade. In addition, a series of polygonal projecting bays whose roofs are conical emanate from this larger central roofline. There are additional rounded projections like the large semi-polygonal apse at the center of the west facade and a smaller polygonal bay located to the right of the largest central apse.

The main facade features a bell tower at its northwest corner. This tower contains many geometric forms commencing with a tall square base surmounted by a circular drum. The church supports stained glass windows. An open-air gable porch surrounds the church main entrance near the bell tower. The porch features decorative woodwork and the ends are highlighted by verge boards. The original heavy oak doors to this entrance are still in-tact. The West facade contains lancet windows framed in wood.

The Interiors has been well preserves and renovated with paint and plaster treatments. The late 19th century pews, multi-paneled altar, organ, and encircling dado are all intact. The stain glass windows are notably characterized by their vivid, luminous color and well-executed designs. All of the stained-glass windows were recently restored and covered with lexan to preserve them. The walls and ceilings, however, exhibit water damage.

CURRENT USE

The church is currently under the leadership of Reverend Hurmon E. Hamilton who dedicates a lot of his time to the involvement of the church in social issues.

SOURCES

National Park Service

National Registration of Historic Places Form

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