Sunday, November 9, 2008

rustic and picturesque

"dwarf-gothic" in style, built of blue Potomac stone, with trimmings of brown...

Built in 1891, the building that now houses Delaware Baptist Church was once the home of Emanuel Episcopal Church, a thriving congregation that was forced to demolish the original building on the site because it became structural unsound.

The new church was built for two reasons: First, the structure had already been saved once:
from the Washington Post, December 8, 1878:
On a gentle knoll on Washington Street (now V Street), in the picturesque little village of Uniontown, stands an unprotesting but easy brick edifice, without spire or tower or cross. English ivy and Virginia creeper clamber up its walls, while its ample grounds of grassy turf are enclosed by a fence of neat paling. It is Emanuel, the eastern outpost of the Episcopal church in the District of Columbia. In looking at the neatness of its external surroundings, and the coziness of its interior, once can hardly realize that three years ago the building and grounds formed the most unsightly object in Uniontown.

A deep, ugly excavation on the western side of the church, close to its foundation, led to the condemnation and abandonment of the edifice. At this critical juncture the present rector came to the rescue of the church and congregation, and, fathering the well-nigh hopeless little band of members around him, secured the excavated grounds and saved the building.
So when it was discovered in 1890 that the walls had begun to crack, it must have seemed too large a project to save the humble building. Also, the church was growing, and the new building was designed to hold 300 more people than the original.

The cornerstone for the new building was laid on October 7, 1891. During construction, the congregation met at the Masonic Hall.
from the Washington Post, October 8, 1891:
The plans were drawn by the Rev. H. G. Wood, of Winthrop, Mass., and the work of putting in the foundation began September 8. The building will be of the usual Gothic style of architecture, with low walls and high roof, constructed of rubble stone, giving it a rustic and picturesque appearance. It will be 92 feet deep by 64 feet at its greatest width, with a will that gives a hall in which the Sunday-school will be held. The tower will be 60 feet high and and the seating capacity 550.

...When completed, the new house will be a beautiful temple of worship, and will be occupied by a congregation that is zealously engaged in the work mapped out for it.

from early 20th C. - look how small the 13th Street ginkos are(!), as well as the wood-shingled roof. Also notice the tower and flag of the since-demolished Van Buren School in the background, and the clapboard siding of the rowhouse next door, since hidden by 1940s asbestos cement shingles. (National Photo Company Collection)

Here is a particularly interesting find:
After reading the Scripture lesson and responses, led by Rev. Mr. Davenport, the rector of the parish announced the contents of the box placed in the corner-stone, which included a copy of The Washington Post of October 7, 1891, the names of the rector, wardens, and vestrymen of Anacostia parish; of the building committee, the architect, the builder, and the stonemason; of the officers and the teachers of the Sunday-school, and the officers and members of the various parochial organizations; a number of coins bearing date of 1891, and a brief historical sketch of the church.
I wonder if that time capsule will ever be unearthed...

On August 29, 1903, the Post published a more comprehensive story of the church, newsworthy for having already planting two "daughter churches", one in Hillsdale and another in Congress Heights, and for its out-of-the-ashes history. The above sketch is from that article, which also reveals some history of their Reverend, Willard G. Davenport:
Mr. Davenport is a Vermonter by birth, but all of his thirty years' ministry, except for about four years and a half, has been spent in the South. In 1861, while a student at the Vermont Episcopal Institute at Burlington, he enlisted in the Fifth Regiment of Vermont Volunteers and served three years in the civil war, participating in all the campaigns and battles of the Army of the Potomac in Virginia, until the battle of the Wilderness in May, 1864, when he was severely wounded, and spent three months in the officers' hospital in Georgetown.
Such an interesting history we have.

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