First and Second Church

First and Second Church

Ware and Van Brunt, 1867

Paul Rudolph, 1971

For First and Second Church, founded in 1630 and one of the nation’s oldest congregations, Boston architects Ware and Van Brunt looked to the English country churches of the Middle Ages for inspiration. The square stone tower is particularly appealing. Its slender octagonal stone spire, a broach spire, becomes four-sided at its base, the juncture pointed up by four small Gothic windows called “lucarnes.” The base of the tower widens as it approaches the ground and has diagonal buttresses at the corners.

Most of the original church burned in 1968. Paul Rudolph’s replacement preserved the tower, porch, and end wall—except for the unfortunate removal of the peak—and created an amphitheater-like entry. I-beams support the old walls like skewed, spindly flying buttresses (see image). The odd-angled geometry was not fully resolved, but it allowed the addition of a small underground parking garage. The main structural material inside and out is Rudolph’s favorite rough striated concrete, as in the Hurley Building downtown and his School of Arts and Architecture at Yale.