Our Greek Revival Temple Church

Greek revival styleA new church needs a new building.  But for the First Universalist Society in South Reading, as for many churches, it took some time to grow large enough to have the resources to build a church.

After meeting in members’ homes and town buildings, the Society was finally able to build a church in 1839.   The land purchased for the building was the same lot on which the church is located today.  This lot was purchased for $500 from Mary Rayner, the widow of John Rayner.  John Rayner was one of the founding members of the Society.

There isn’t a record of the architect of the original building or any of the details of its design and construction. The building was built in the Greek Revival style of church popular at the time.  In the book, Meetinghouse and Church in Early New England, author Edward W. Sinnot states, “the Greek Revival, as it was called, brought to America after the Revolution, and sweeping up from the Southern States, entered New England a little before 1830.  For approximately the next twenty years most of the new churches endeavored to transform themselves into steepled temples.”  (McGraw Hill 1963 p.26)

The First Universalist Society built their church in a particularly severe version of the Greek Revival style as the steeple was omitted altogether. Sinnot’s description of the new churches could have been written about this building, “the temple-church of the Greek Revival showed an entire Doric facade ... The pitch of the roof was lower than before.  The doors were heavy.”   

The new church was finished by November of 1839 at a cost of $5000.  It was dedicated on November 29.  The service of dedication was led by the third minister employed by the Society, the Reverend Henry Jewell.

The Greek Revival trend in church architecture was short lived.  By 1850 temple-churches were out of fashion. In 1859, when the Society enlarged and modernized their building, they removed the columns, added a steeple and incorporated elements of the newly fashionable Italianate design.




Event Date: 
Monday, July 2, 2012 (All day)