St. John’s Episcopal Church was founded in 1840 on the eve of a population boom in Charlestown. Preceded by diverse christian denominations, Baptist, Universalist, Unitarian, Methodist, Roman Catholic and the First Congregational Church, St. John’s became the town’s only Episcopalian congregation. Even though it is a relatively late addition to Charlestown’s religious landscape, St. John’s stands today as the oldest existent church in town.
The first public Episcopal service in Charlestown was offered at Fuller’s Hall on the east side of the Town Square (now known as City Square) on Sunday January 5th, 1840. The Chaplain of the Navy Yard, Rev. Nathaniel Bent of Philadelphia, led that service and became the first rector shortly thereafter. The following month Articles of Association were drawn up and signed by approximately twenty-four representatives of about twenty founding families. The congregation was born and fundraising began in earnest to raise the necessary $10,000 to build a House of Worship. By the fall of that year a lot on Town Hill was purchased for $4,700. The cornerstone of the church was laid on May 5th 1841. On November 10th of the same year the finished church was consecrated.
Walk up Devens St. today and you will discover a venerable old church in the early Gothic Revival style, designed by Boston architect, Richard Bond (1797-1861). The church is notable for its dark ashlar granite facade, quatrefoil windows and square, crenellated tower. The adjacent 1870’s Carpenter Gothic stick-style chapel, designed by Ware and Van Brunt was lifted to allow the addition of a brick ground floor, thereby creating the current Parish House in 1901. It stands today as the finest Victorian building in the neighborhood.
Inside you will find a vibrant community of faith that seeks to praise God and serve Christ in the community that surrounds it. Much has changed in Charlestown since the St. John’s was built in 1840; but one thing has remained steadfast: the commitment of the people of Saint John’s to proclaim the Good News and minister to the community beyond its walls.