St. Mark’s Episcopal clears hurdle to National Register listing

Elizabeth Murray, Special to the Reporter
Jun. 21, 2012

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church is one step further toward being entered into the National Register of Historical Places.

Secretary of the Commonwealth William Francis Galvin announced Tuesday that the Massachusetts Historical Commission approved St. Mark’s for nomination to the National Register of Historical Places at its meeting on June 13. This nomination will be submitted to the register at the National Park Service in Washington D.C., for final consideration.

The St. Mark’s complex – the chapel, parish house and rectory – has met two of the four criteria to be considered for the national register, those of architecture and community planning and development. Candidates for consideration must meet at least one of the four criteria based on historical contributions.

Earl Taylor, president of the Dorchester Historical Society, said he both expected and hoped for the nomination to be approved by the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

‘I’m very pleased with that,” Taylor said. “I think we should all be pleased with a piece of our architectural heritage being recognized.”
The church is one of eight historic resources around the Commonwealth that were approved for nomination to the national register at this meeting. The 17-member commission, of which Galvin serves as Chairman, meets regularly and considers historic resources eligible for the register four times per year.

“The Massachusetts Historical Commission is dedicated to preserving the Commonwealth’s rich historic, architectural, archaeological, and cultural resources,” Galvin said in a statement. “Inclusion of St. Mark’s in the National Register will help to preserve this gem of ecclesiastical architecture, which still plays a vital role in its community today.”

Located in Uphams Corner, St. Mark’s three buildings were constructed between 1904 and 1910 by a mission parish in a working-class neighborhood on what became Columbia Road. It was built in the place of what had previously been St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, which had been destroyed by a fire in 1887. St. Mark’s served the area that what had previously been several estates turned into residential neighborhoods.

The oldest of the three buildings, the chapel built in 1904 was built in a Gothic Revival style with elements of Craftsman style. The site of the church was commissioned by the Bishop and Diocesan Standing Committee to be designed by architect Edmund Q. Sylvester and built by Boston craft firm Bigelow, Kennard and Company. The chapel retains most of its early interior elements, including the wooden-railed brass pulpit. In 1909, the Craftsman-style parish house and rectory were both built.

After World War II, the surrounding neighborhood in Dorchester became the home of many African-American and Latino residents as original members moved to the suburbs. The parish continues to be very active in today’s community, with a very diverse congregation with members from many countries. Parishioners are currently renovating the rectory to improve some of its mechanical systems.

Taylor said that there is no monetary award that comes with the entrance into the national register, but this recognition could be used as a tool for future fundraising efforts.