Arago: 15-cent Trintiy Church

15-cent Trintiy Church

The American Architect and Building News conducted a poll in 1885 that asked its readers to list "the ten buildings which the subscriber believes to be the most successful examples of architectural design in the country." The results granted American architect Henry Harold Richardson (1838-1886) honors for five of the top ten structures, including the Trinity Church in Boston, Massachusetts. The Trinity Church received nearly 85 percent of the votes, decisively ranking it among America's architectural masterpieces.

Born in Louisiana and educated at Harvard, H.H. Richardson left the country in 1859, conflicted by the turmoil leading to the American Civil War. While in Paris, he studied at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts. He returned to the United States to design many historic buildings, among them Sever Hall located at Harvard University and New York State Capitol. The crown jewel and most definitive work of his career was the Trinity Church in Boston, which established "Richardson-Romanesque," a style defined by high, round headed arches, lintels made from contrasting stones, and wrought iron ornaments. Richardson's style influenced many famous architects, including Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Richardson designed the Trinity Church for the renowned clergyman Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) after the fire of 1872. Built in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood, Trinity helped define Copley Square as the city's new cultural center and represented a departure from the city's Puritan past. The church's construction on the tidal marshland of Back Bay was crucial to what became one of America's most ambitious public works projects to-date. The ninety-million ton tower, typical of the Richardson-Romanesque style, has been supported alone by the same four-thousand cedar piles and four enormous granite pyramids since its construction. The water level beneath the church is regulated daily to prevent the piles from rotting.

The Trinity Church is truly one of the most beautiful buildings not only in Boston but also in the entire country, and it helped establish Richardson as the leader in building solutions and design formulas in America.

Walter D. Richards designed the 15-cent Trinity Church stamp of the 1980 American Architecture Series. The stamps of this series were among the last American commemorative stamps produced on a Giori printing press.


"Trinity Church." Boston History and Architecture.

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