Park Street Church , Boston

Park Street Church

Date: 1809
Architect: Peter Banner

Park Street Church offers a fine example of the whitewashed, multi-tiered church steeple that is so familiar to New England cities and towns. From a four-sided, pedimented belfry with Ionic columns to a delicate spire base with oval windows, the steeple displays much variation in each of its tiers.

British-born Peter Banner drew inspiration for Park Street from the 1672 redesign of St. Bride's Church in London by Christopher Wren (1632-1723). Park Street's wooden, 217-foot steeple made the church the tallest building in America for a brief time, and inspired subway kiosk architect Edmund Wheelwright to write: "The refinement of classical forms in wooden construction is so rare, except in New England work of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, that it may be fairly held as our sole distinctive contribution to architectural art. The culminating and most beautiful example of our wooden Renaissance architecture is, in my opinion, the spire of Park Street Church."

Also of note are the curved, colonnaded pavilions that flank the entry tower and help join it to the body of the church. Solomon Willard, designer of the Bunker Hill monument in Charlestown, was one of the craftsmen who carved the column capitals.

The church's location, between the Common and the Granary Burying Ground, was once home to a huge granary, or grain storehouse that became a public building after the Revolutionary War. In the 1790s, the sails for USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”) were manufactured there. After the church was built for the city's Congregationalists, the location became known as Brimstone Corner, either for the fiery sermons of the ministers or the church basement’s role as a storage space for gunpowder during the War of 1812. Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison spoke here on July 4, 1829, and "America" (“My Country ’Tis of Thee”) was first sung here on July 4, 1831.

Today, the church’s location on the corner of Park and Tremont downhill from the State House is one of the busiest in the city.

Banner also designed the Unitarian Church in Burlington, Vermont, a few years before his work on Park Street. That church has a shorter, two-tiered steeple with an open belfry.