Recognized as one of the most significant buildings in America, Trinity Church took shape on marshland in Boston's Back Bay in the 1870's.
December 1870: At a special meeting, the Vestry votes to remove Trinity Church "provided that a satisfactory location can be agreed upon and secured for a new church."
January 1872: A 24,800 square-foot lot is purchased.
March 1872: The Building Committee meets for the first time.
June 1872: The Building Committee reviews architectural plans and selects H. H. Richardson's firm Gambrill and Richardson to design the new church. After an appeal for additional funding from parishioners, the Vestry buys an additional triangle of land that adds 14,687 feet to the original lot. The lot "was enclosed by four public streets, making the Church visible in all directions... the only site on the Back Bay where these advantages could have been secured."
Summer 1872: The plans are completely revised for the larger lot. In the original plans, the Chapel (now the Parish House) is placed at the rear of the church. Both the church and parish house had to be compressed within a width of 90 feet.
November 1872: The Great Fire of Boston destroys the second Trinity Church building. The congregation is invited to worship in Huntington Hall of the Institute of Technology.
March 1873: A carved granite stone from the facade of the burned church is preserved to be installed in the cloister wall (just outside the Clarendon Street entrance to the church).
April 1873: The first wooden piling is driven - most pilings were driven from July through September. The engineer maintains a record of every piling driven.
September 1873: The estimates to build the church range from $355,000 to $640,000. Appalled at the estimated cost, the Vestry stops all work except for the pilings to support the main walls.
October 1873: Richardson revises the plans and Norcross Brothers reduce their bid to $435,000. A contract is signed and work resumes in full.
November 1874: The Chapel (Parish House) is complete. Sunday school and lectures meet in the new space.
May 1875: The Rector, Phillips Brooks, lays the cornerstone for the new church. Since the walls are partially built, there is room only for members of the Vestry and Building Committee to be present. "When the walls were in the most fitting condition for the ceremony, summer 1874, Mr. Brooks was in Europe and most of the parish was absent from Boston."
November 1876: The construction of the church is completed. "It was with great doubts that on January 27, 1877, the day of Consecration was fixed for February 9, the last day before Lent. Mr. La Farge took the full time for which he had asked to complete the decoration. He and several assistants worked during several of his last days till after midnight, and on Wednesday, January 31, he is believed to have spent the whole night at work. In the morning the work of taking down the great tower staging began, and on Saturday, February 3, the last of the great timbers of this staging got safely down. Only five days remained before the Consecration, but the work of cleaning, finishing the floor, putting up the pews, laying the carpets, and completing the organ, all went on with great rapidity and success, and on Thursday night, February 8, everything was done."
February 8, 1877: The final payment on the building is made. The Building Committee incurred debt "with extreme reluctance... They were filled with the conviction that their duty to the parish, to posterity, and to God, was clear, to make our new Church fully worthy of piety, the culture, and the wealth of our people."
February 9, 1877: The painted murals and decorations were completed by John La Farge in 5 months. The building is dedicated. "Friday morning was bright and clear, and the whole was very beautiful and spring-like. Invited guests of the parish included the Governor of Massachusetts, the Mayor of Boston, the Bishops of the Diocese of Massachusetts, clergymen from other denominations, wardens and vestrymen of other parishes, and the architects, artists, and builders of the new church. A procession began from the west entrance; 107 clergymen joined in the procession." The dean of the Theological School at Cambridge read the Gospel. The Rector of Emmanuel Church, Boston preached the sermon. The prayers were offered by the Rector of Christ Church, Boston (Old North Church). The Bishops of Central Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts conducted the Communion Service.
Quotations taken from "The Consecration of Trinity Church," published by the Vestry on the occasion of the dedication of the new Trinity Church in Back Bay.
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