St. Mary’s was founded in 1811 by thirty-three people who felt they could not have a community without a church. The church building, one of the oldest in the city of Newton, was completed in 1813.
The grounds occupy approximately 2.5 acres overlooking the Charles River. The sanctuary architecture is in the colonial style with clear round headed windows creating a contemplative setting. The church, featuring interior square columns and high box pews with seating for 350 people, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The church property has had extensive renovations and additions over the past two hundred years. The connected parish hall – which houses the parish offices, community meeting spaces, and classrooms – was added in the 1940s, as was a house for the rector and his family.
The adjacent Churchyard is a visible reminder of the founders and former parishioners of St. Mary’s. The oldest grave dates back to 1812, with burials of Revolutionary War and Civil War veterans. (Of note is Zibeon Hooker, who had been a drummer boy at the Battle of Bunker Hill. When his drum was damaged by a musket ball, he seized a gun and fought to the end of the battle.)
More recently, the Memorial Circle was dedicated in 2000 as a place for interment. In connection with our 200th anniversary in 2013, the church building has been updated with a modern energy efficient heating system, as well as renovations to the adjacent parish hall so we can better serve the needs of our community in the 21st century.
The following is excerpted from our Wikipedia entry:
“[St. Mary’s was] built in 1813-14 and restyled in 1838, is the oldest church in Newton, and is a fine example of Gothic Revival/Federal style architecture. The cemetery, which dates from 1812, is the oldest non-government-owned cemetery in Newton. The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980…
“…It is a single-story wood frame building, with a gable roof, clapboard siding, and a brick foundation. Its square tower rises above a gabled entry pavilion that projects from the center of the west-facing facade. The pavilion has two entrances, each flanked by pilasters and topped by a Gothic-arched transom. A central window placed high has a trefoil pattern. Most of the building’s remaining windows are sash windows topped by half-round transoms. The tower rising above the pavilion begins with a square section with oculus windows on each side, topped by a smaller belfry with Gothic-arched louvers and a railing with pinnacled corner posts. These details are repeated at a smaller scale above the belfry. Notable features of the church interior are its original high box pews, choir loft and plain glass windows. The plain chancel was added in 1922.
“The church was built in 1813-14, as a Federal style structure, and was extensively altered in 1838, lengthening it to the rear by 16 feet (4.9 m), and restyling the tower with Gothic features. In 1954 the tower was again rebuilt, removing Gothic features in a bid to return the church to a more Federal appearance. The land for the church was purchased by Samuel Brown, a wealthy Boston merchant who had established one of the paper mills in Newton Lower Falls, and he also donated funds toward the building’s construction.”
To read more about our historic buildings and graveyard, you can access the Massachusetts Historic Reports for both the Church and the Rectory, as well as the National Register of Historic Places nomination form.
200 Years and Beyond
St. Mary’s cornerstone was laid on September 29, 1813. Less than a year later, the church was dedicated as the first Episcopal parish built west of Boston.
Two hundred years later, in 2013, our parish embarked on a year long celebration of this remarkable anniversary. Through special concerts, a ‘historic worship service’, a rededication of the cornerstone, and celebrations of many types and sizes we marked our ministry in this corner of Newton.
In celebration of this bicentennial the parish undertook a capital campaign. The campaign was broad reaching and encompassed exterior and interior painting of the church, a modern energy efficient heating system as well as new windows and insulation, and major renovations of our parish hall.