I should feel privileged to live down the street from Boston’s Trinity Church, the striking stone edifice in Copley Square that the AIA still considers one of the ten most significant buildings in the United States. I pass it nearly every day, but somehow I had never bothered to explore it. Finally yesterday, on the occasion of the church’s 275th anniversary, I stepped inside for the first time.
An architect was on hand to explain some of the more unique features of the church’s design, like the 4500 fir piles on which the church’s foundation depends and the subterranean granite pyramids which spread the load from the four massive central columns. (Perhaps contrary to Biblical advice, it is built not on solid rock but landfill.) He also filled in some gaps in my knowledge of local history: Trinity’s late 19th century rector, Phillips Brooks, had already achieved some fame for his sermon at the funeral of Abraham Lincoln. But it was in Brooks’s rejection of 9 more established architects for the construction of the 1873 church building—awarding the commission instead to his little-known college buddy H. H. Richardson—that Brooks probably made his most lasting mark on society. Trinity Church propelled Richardson to fame, established a new genre of architecture, launched the careers of artists such as John La Farge, and left Boston with a world-class building.
Organist Michael Kleinschmidt demonstrated Trinity’s large pipe organ—actually two physically distinct organs played from the same console. He opened with “O Little Town of Bethlehem” (written, as it happens, by Phillips Brooks) then invited us to walk around while he played Danse Macabre, chosen for the wide variety of voices it demonstrates and the proximity to Halloween. I took some pictures, which, given the present backlog, you might expect to see in a few years.