United Congregational Church, Newport Rhode Island

Date added: September 17, 2010 Categories: Rhode Island Church

This church, built in 1855-1857, serves the United First and Second Congregational parishes of Newport whose history began in the late 17th century. The building, designed by Joseph C. Wells and redecorated on the interior in 1880 by John LaFarge, is an interesting and well-preserved example of the Romanesque Revival, brownstone churches of the mid 19th century.

At a meeting on May 7, 1833, the United Congregational Church was formed by the union of the First Congregational and Second Congregational churches. The first building on this site was dedicated in 1834. Operations on the new building were delayed for the lack of Connecticut sandstone. The stone was unable to be delivered due to the icing over of the Connecticut River.

Alterations and additions: The original northwest corner tower, the top of which was lost in a hurricane, is shown in an old photograph and a colored lithograph (unsigned, undated, but probably ca. 1870's) on exhibit in the narthex. The tower originally terminated with a belfry with triple arcades at about the roof peak level. The top level still survives. This arcade level was topped by a concave, steep pyramidal roof surmounted by an open cupola with a weather vane. The tower was particularly effective because of the placement of the church. In 1880 the interior of the church was decorated by John LaFarge. The attached parish house was erected in 1908.

Over-all dimensions: The building is approximately 75 feet by 125 feet, five bays long; rectangular plan; one story plus basement and gallery.

Floor plan: The main entrance leads to a shallow narthex which contains doors to the corner towers. The two-story nave has open galleries above the side aisles. On the east wall is a very shallow chancel framed by a large arch. On the west wall the choir and organ gallery is framed by a similar arch. The nave contains 154 pews which seat over one thousand people. The cellar under the narthex and west portion of the nave is used as a furnace room. The later two story parish house which adjoins the church building at the east contains classrooms and offices.