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Boston’s Oldest Standing Church Building

On April 15, 1723, in a pasture on Salem Street, just below the summit of Copps Hill in Boston’s north end, the Reverend Samuel Miles, rector of King’s Chapel in Boston laid the first stone in the foundation of what would become Christ Church, now known as the Old North Church. The end result would be one of one of America’s finest and earliest surviving examples of Georgian architecture, but with a unique character and style all its own.

One year earlier, Boston’s Anglicans had decided to build a second Anglican Church to accommodate their growing numbers in predominantly Puritan Boston. The builders of this new church were determined that it should be constructed in the contemporary style of England’s most fashionable churches. To that end they looked to the designs of Sir Christopher Wren.

Remarkably, while Wren’s St. James’s Church in Piccadilly is the most likely source for the design of the Old North, there are no records of formal architectural plans or to the commission of an architect. Thus, while distinctly Georgian in style, and modeled directly on Wren’s churches, the Old North was constructed in a style all its own.

The entire building would take twenty-two years to complete. Over half a million bricks from kilns in nearby Medford, Massachusetts were laid by masons Ebenezer Clough and James Varney in the “English bond” style to create a structure seventy feet long, fifty-one feet wide and forty-two feet high, with walls two and a half feet thick. The brick belfry tower would be twenty four feet square and eighty five feet tall. Upon that tower, reaching up to one-hundred and ninety one feet were the wooden tower and spire designed by William Price, topped by the swallow-tail weather vane designed by Shem Drowne.

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Museum Staff

This page was developed with the help of one of our great cast members here at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.

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