Niagara Gazette

Opinion

April 14, 2014

HIGGS: Gothic architecture -- a fitting structure for church services

Niagara Gazette — Before we get involved in the new church building, we need to know what happened to the former structure on First Street which was utilized for St. Peter’s Church services for 30 years until 1880 when the present stone church was ready for use. The church was a frame structure and “if ever it had any style of architecture or any lines of beauty, additions and changes of later years certainly have effaced them.” That description was included in the Fiftieth Anniversary Program Book (1923) where most of my factual information was gathered. It eventually went through a series of commercial uses and at the time of the anniversary celebration (1923) it was used as a public livery. The rectory was built of stone in a fine old English style and was sold and occupied as a residence.

Last week we briefly met Henry Dudley who was commissioned as the architect for the new St. Peter’s Church. He was also one of the founding members of the American Institute of Architects. He followed the wishes of the reform movement in church design which called for the return to the forms of the medieval church; perhaps with the thought this would help to revitalize spiritual interest. Wikipedia says: “Gothic architecture is a style of architecture born in the 10th Century in the beautiful churches, abbeys and cathedrals of northern France and later throughout Europe. ... This style flourished during the late medieval period and evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture. Its features include the pointed arch; the ribbed vault and the flying buttress”. (Think Notre Dame in Paris).

The cornerstone was laid on May 5, 1873, with many members of the church hierarchy present including former rector, the Rev. O. F. Starkey, Mr. A. Augustus Porter, Mr. Stoughten Pettebone and Mr. Dexter R. Jerauld. Construction began in the summer of 1873 with the excavation for the basement. During this period, the parish fell into financial hardship due to the costs of the construction and the poor local economy. However, it was completed in November of 1880, only a few months after the expected completion date. The total cost was approximately $47,000 which included $7,000 land cost. David Phillips and William Shepard built the church and it was their 130th church building. P. C. Flynn was the interior decorator and when completed the parish had only a small debt of $300 and a mortgage. The first service was held on Nov. 4, 1880, the same day it was consecrated by the rector, the Rev. Mr. Wolseley. The church itself is located on the corner of Rainbow Boulevard and 2nd Street. The address is 228 2nd St. but the historic address of 140 Rainbow Blvd. is still used by the church. During the late 1880s the parish decided to build a guild house under the Rev. Phillip Wheeler Mosher of Michigan. This was completed in 1901 and was shared under an agreement with the Jerauld Institute and the parish and is used as office and community activities.

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