IWalked Boston’s Park Street Church
Park Street Church is an active Conservative Congregational Church located along Boston’s Freedom Trail that dates back to 1809 (just five years after Park Street itself was established). Prior to its erection, the largest building in all of Boston resided on this site. A building known as the Granary (built in 1738), was located here for nearly seventy-five years, serving the purpose of storing corn and wheat for sale. It was inside the former Granary building in which the sails for the U.S.S. Constitution were said to be sewn. The Granary was demolished in 1809 to make room for the Park Street Church which was founded by twenty-six parishioners from the nearby Old South Meeting House.
Park Street Church was formally constructed in a very short period of time between 1809 and 1810 and was designed by architect Peter Banner. Banner based his plans on a similar London church by Sir Christopher Wren who is most noted for having designed St. Paul’s Cathedral. Integrated within Banner’s designs include a 217 foot Georgia steeple and some intricately carved wooden capitals on the front columns that were done by Solomon Willard. An addition of a stained glass window caused a bit of controversy when it was installed in 1904 for its anti-Puritan flare. The controversy eventually led the church to install a plain-glass window over the exterior so that this single example of stained glass may only be viewed from the interior.
When masses began here in 1810, the congregation was known as a very serious and passionate bunch. Masses would last approximately two to three hours each week and in the event that attendees were found to be “resting their eyes” they were awaken via a wooden stick.
Over the years Park Street Church earned the nickname of “Brimstone Corner,” both for the fiery speakers who used to preach both inside and outside the church and for the gunpowder which was housed there during the War of 1812. Amongst those who spoke here included William Lloyd Garrison who delivered his first anti-slavery speech here on July 4, 1829. It was during this address that he spoke the famous words, “Since the cause of emancipation must progress heavily, and must meet with must unhallowed opposition—why delay the work?”
A number of other notable firsts are said to have occurred within the Park Street Church. The first Sunday school program was held here in 1816. The church’s first organist, Lowell Mason, composed “Joy to the World” here. Another noted song, “America” (aka “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”) was sung for the first time of the church’s steps on July 4, 1831 by the Park Street’s Children Choir. And lastly, some unrelated organizations including the Animal Rescue League (a predecessor of the humane society) and the Prison Discipline Society (the first U.S. prison ministry) were also founded here.
Today the church continues to be an active congregation that is said to have nearly 2,000 mass attendees each week.
Address: 63-64 Beacon Street, Boston, MA
IWalked Audio Tours To See This Site: Boston’s Freedom Trail. (Coming Summer 2012.)