Fairhaven Memorial Church: History

Work was begun on the buildings of the Unitarian Society of Fairhaven during the month of April 1901 
and the corner stone was laid on August 5, 1901. Mark Twain was present at the commemoration.
The parish house was dedicated on Tuesday, January sixth, 1903.
The church was dedicated on Tuesday, October fourth, 1904.


Antique Postcards of the Church




Exterior Views of the New Church

Interior Views of the New Church

Views of the original Church on Washington Street

One of the many splendid buildings erected by Mr. Rogers is the Memorial Church, a tribute to the memory of his mother, Mary Eldredge Huttleston, reportedly at a cost of over one million dollars.

It is one hundred fourteen feet in height, one hundred feet long in the body and fifty-three feet wide. The nave is thirty-two feet wide and seventy-one feet long. The main aisle is sixty-two feet long and six feet wide.

The church, parish house and former parsonage (now Harrop Center) of the Unitarian Society are so placed as to form three sides of a quadrangle, set among well­kept lawns and shrubbery. The architecture is fifteenth century English Gothic, perpendicular style. The church is built of native stone, the granite of the exterior walls being taken from the estate of Mr. Rogers in the south end of the town and all of the large stone was raised into position by a donkey lift. It is a granite of rich warm coloring which lends itself beautifully to this type of architecture.

The decorative portions of the exterior are of royal blue Indiana limestone. The interior walls also are of Indiana limestone of soft buff. Both exterior and interior are richly decorated with carvings, the exterior stone work having been carved by artisans from Italy and the interior woodwork by wood carvers from Bavaria. As at Amiens, the artists wrought in creative fashion, giving variety to both exterior and interior, its art being largely Scriptural, bearing the message of the Bible, the Prophets, the Saints and the Christ.

The great tower, over one hundred and sixty-five feet high, of sparkling granite and carved limestone, is a landmark for many miles. In this tower is a finely adjusted D chime of eleven bells. There are one hun­dred eighty granite steps leading to this tower. 

Entering the church, you are first impressed, I think, by the wondrous beauty of the windows, and thrilled by a feeling of deepest reverence. These windows were the work of the late Robert Reid of New York. Mr. Reid had here an opportunity that comes to but few masters to create not only the Memorial Window, but all the win­dows as well, thus enabling him to portray the principal teachings of Christ, and through them develop a perfect symphony. of color. His ideal is a gradual change, or growth of color, beginning with the dark blues and purples of mysterious night in "The Nativity" in the west, and gradually changing through the "Nine Beatitudes" in the clerestory, to the glowing colors of day in "The Sermon on the Mount", in the east.

In "The Nativity" the idea represented is the birth of light emanating from the Child, through the blue mystery of the night. This Window twenty-four feet high and comprising five panels, is a picture. of great brilliance, with the fire of gems in its gorgeous colorings, which change with the intensity of the sunlight behind them. To the Mother and Child in the central panel come, on the one hand, the Three Kings, the Magi, bearing their gifts; Melchoir with his gold, Caspar with his frankincense, and Balthazar, his myrrh; on the other hand, three Shepherds look on in wonderment. All but the outermost figures of each group are full in the glorified radiance emanating from the Child, and this divine efful­gence illumines the whole composition, lessening as it diffuses itself toward the more remote figures and among the angels that fill the upper spaces of the panels, and over all shines the beautiful Bethlehem Star.

Directly opposite, and of the same size, is the "Sermon on the Mount", where Christ is represented standing on the mountain with twelve of his disciples gathered about him. On either side are gnarled old olive trees. Above the purple mountain top fleecy clouds float by the Christ, a striking figure in shining white, pronouncing the benediction, blessing the unseen multitude which in reality is the congregation in the church. When you pass out, you leave with the benediction of the Christ.

One notable effect of the windows is the natural flesh quality in the figures. Two years were spent in their de­signing and execution, and Mr. Reid regarded them as his most important work.

In the nine windows of the clerestory are portrayed the "Nine Beatitudes", each containing three figures, distinctive in long graceful lines and wonderful coloring. The smaller aisle windows bear the symbols of the twelve Apostles, and in each ,is placed the name of a family long devoted to the interests of the church. As memorials, they perpetuate the names of Delano, Winsor, Fish, Stoddard, Nye, Taber, Tripp, Eldredge, Allen, Cox, Sawin and Liscomb. Smaller windows in the vestibule, baptistry and south porch bear the symbols of the four Evangelists. Protective glass is used both inside and outside on small windows.

The woodwork of the interior is of rare English oak, selected with the greatest care. The pulpit, platform rail, organ fronts, chancel screen and pews are richly carved. The pulpit, which occupies a central position at the front of the rostrum, is very elaborate. It is an octagonal enclosure, open at one side, the other sides being divided into panels of tracery. The corners bear richly canopied niches, in which are the figures of the four major prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel and two of the minor prophets, Zachariah and Micah. Each prophet bears an unrolled scroll on which is written a prophetic message.

The platform rail is a perforated panel, elaborately carved, bearing singing cherubs on both sides. On the platform, behind the pulpit, are three seats for the clergy, upholstered in leather of an unusual tone of color. At the top and on the back of the central chair there are carved cherub heads and a figure of Moses reading frorn the Book of Life, and on each arm is an angel bearing a dove, symbolic of the Holy Spirit. Lions adorn the arms of the other chairs.

The choir screen, stretching between the two lime­stone walls of the chancel, consists of nine beautiful panels, separated by tiny buttresses with pinnacles, each having a tympanum filled with tracery. Above is a vaulted canopy surmounted by a cresting of Tudor flowers. The principal feature of the screen is the line of finely sculptured busts on a panel of rich orna­ment. These bear symbols of the gifts of the Holy Spirit:

Hope, . Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Spiritual Strength, Knowledge, Love, Holy Fear and Faith. A most interesting feature is the figure typifying Holy Fear, holding a model of the church, which even though small in scale, is an exceedingly faithful copy of the original. Upon the tracery parapet along the top of the screen is a series of shields bearing devices of a Scriptural charac­ter, the Ark of the Covenant, the Labarum, the Hand of God, the Agnus Dei, the Serpent in the Wilderness, and others.

The organ fronts at either side of the chancel are duplicates in form, although varied considerably in detail and ornamentation. At the four comers are large winged trumpeters, the canopies under which they stand being richly decorated with cherub heads, doves, and flowers, and in the panels here can be seen the exquisite grain of the rare oak. Directly above is a vaulted canopy bearing a line of carved busts representing boys in mediaeval cos­tume playing upon curious instruments of the period, and over these on the next solid panel is a line of winged choristers perpetually singing, "Holy, Holy, Holy". Still higher, delicately pedorated bands and canopies clasp the organ pipes, the whole terminating in finely wrought carved spires. The visible pipes of the organ are covered with beaten gold, decorated in warm color and clouded silver. The organ, made by Hutchins and Votey, is one of the finest and most effective in New England, although not .the largest. For funda­mental quality and sweetness of tone it is believed to excel anything in the country.

The pews, ( 32 ) seating approximately two hundred fifty people, of the same rare oak, have elaborately carved ends and backs, no two being alike.

The oak ceiling of the nave presents many interesting features. It is divided by heavy trusses into five bays, separated into squares, decorated with Tudor tips. Upon the trusses and on the cornice are many shields with a great variety of Christian symbols emblazoned in gold. Ten large winged figures ten feet high, stand as the cen­tral feature on each side of the trusses. Hand carved and covered with beaten gold, they bear inscriptions sym­bolizing ten attributes of the intellectual life: Philosophy, Rhetoric, Music, Arithmetic, Geometry, Grammar, As­trology, Metaphysics, Dialectics and Theology. 

The floor of the church is of marble. In the nave, beneath the pews, are square blocks of marble from Tennessee, around which is an elaborately panelled frame visible in the aisles, of colored marbles, yellow from France, pink from Italy, and Green Alps from Switzer­land. The base of the pulpit is a beautiful piece of Alps green marble: also of the same material are the bases of the organ on each side, and the front and steps of the platform. The floor of the platform is of Knoxville mar­ble, covered with a heavy Turkish carpet.

The carvings of the limestone are greatly varied, the tracery of the arches of the nave exhibiting the five principal motifs used extensively throughout the church, - the hawthorn, grape, maple, oak and ivy.

Entering the church through the south door will be seen on the south wall to the left and above the first elec­tric light fixture a carved head of a child which is sup­posed to resemble Beatrice C. Mosgrove, the daughter of Mrs. Mildred C. Mosgrove who wrote this descriptive story of the Art and Symbolism shown in the Architecture and Decoration of this church.



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