History of St Mary’s


Architectural History

historic st mary's

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church was established in 1847, the first Episcopal church in Dorchester. Two years after a 1887 fire destroyed the original building on Bowdoin Street, the current sanctuary was built by well-known Gothicist Henry Vaughan in the Tudor Revival style. Vaughan, a devout Anglo-Catholic, was closely affiliated with the Oxford movement, an ecclesiastic and aesthetic fervor which renewed interest in Gothic architecture, artisan crafts, and the mysticism of the mass. Design elements include an exposed truss ceiling (acknowledged by architectural historian William Morgan as one of the finest arched braced roofs in existence) and the church’s outstanding stained glass collection, which grew to include works from Tiffany, Connick, Burnham and Goodhue. Residents of the Jones Hill, the immediate neighborhood, built elegant victorian homes in the Queen Anne, Shingle and Colonial Revival style to match, one of which (across the street) was even designed to complement St Marys’ architecture. In 1893 a transept and chancel were added, designed by Hartwell and Richardson, and in 1903 a small gable-roofed parish hall was erected adjacent to the sanctuary designed by Charles K Cummings to match the sanctuary’s style.

In 1998, the National Register of Historic Places added St Mary’s as a historic landmark due to its national and local significance. It was the only Boston church designed by Vaughan, and is a prominent landmark in Dorchester’s Upham’s Corner neighborhood, which also boasts of the Strand Theater one block over and the Dorchester North Burial Ground across the street as well as other commercial buildings.

The Massachusetts Cultural Resources Information System entry on St Mary’s contains the original historic application forms with much more architectural detail. You can also read more information here.