Park Street Church
The Park Street Church was founded over 200 years ago by a band of Christians who decided to break away from the worshipers at the Old South Church. They chose the site at the corner of Park and Tremont Streets, atop the site of Boston’s town grain storage building, for construction of their new church. The church’s towering 217-foot steeple was one of the first landmarks travelers saw when approaching Boston by sea. Park Street Church also became known for supporting abolitionism and social justice. On July 4, 1829, a young William Lloyd Garrison delivered his first major public speech against slavery.
Backstory and Context
Park Street Church began as a small group of twenty-six devoted Christians who broke away from the Old South Church. They formed the “Religious Improvement Society” in 1804 and stated to hold their own weekly prayer meetings and lectures. In 1809, they established the Park Street Church and raised enough funds to build the magnificent structure that still stands at the edge of the Boston Common today.
The Park Street Church was designed by Peter Banner and constructed in 1809. It sits on the former site of a colonial granary near the edge of Boston Common. Banner was a well-known English architect who designed several buildings at Yale in New Haven prior to moving to Boston. Here, he designed and constructed a home for Ebenezer Craft as well as the buildings at India Wharf. Banner was also a skilled mason and carpenter. He was often involved in the hands-on work at the buildings that he had designed.
The church is notable for its tall steeple. The spire extends 217 feet into the air. At one time, this steeple was one of the first landmarks that visitors to the city would see upon their arrival. He created the steeple as a homage to British architect Christopher Wren. Wren had implemented a similar design at St. Bride’s Church in London.
Nearly ten years after its construction (1818), the Park Street Church hosted the country’s first Sunday School. In the coming years, the church would serve as a beacon for social justice. Speeches arguing for the abolishment of slavery and the rights of African-Americans took place on these steps, including the first public speech delivered by a rising member of the anti-slavery movement, William Lloyd Garrison.
On July 4, 1831, the children’s choir of the Park Street Church gave the first a capella performance of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” at the site.
The site of the Park Street Church is often referred to as “Brimstone Corner.” There are two theories about why the location was given that nickname. First, it may have been because the basement was used to store gunpowder and other sulfuric components during the War of 1812. The other theory is that the types of passionate sermons given at the church gave it the fiery nickname.
Today, the Park Street Church describes itself as an Evangelical, Congregational, and International house of worship. Sermons and study groups are still held several times a week. In addition, the church is open for Freedom Trail Tours throughout the year.
Park Street Church
The English architect Peter Banner designed Park Street Church. It was built in 1809 on the site of the old Granary for which the adjoining burying ground, much older than the church, was named. / On July 4, 1829, William Lloyd Garrison delivered his first anti-slavery speech here and so launched his emancipation campaign with the words: “Since the cause of emancipation must progress heavily, and must meet with much unhallowed opposition – why delay the work?”
Park Street Church. The Freedom Trail Foundation. Accessed May 19, 2018. http://www.thefreedomtrail.org/freedom-trail/park-street-church.shtml.
Park Street History. Park Street Church. Accessed May 20, 2018. https://www.parkstreet.org/about-park-street/park-street-history.