If you walk downtown, you’ll see trucks and construction barriers in place around the Old South Church. The project to outfit the Copley subway station for handicap access had caused a major crack to the foundation of the church roofline at the end of 2008 and been halted until an array of monitors were installed to warn against future damage.
The church building itself stands on the corner of Boylston and Dartmouth Streets. It dates back to 1875.
Its congregation, known as Third Church, or Old South dated back to 1669. It had met in the Old South Meeting House, once the largest structure in Colonial Boston. However, in the years after the Civil War, events precipitated a change of scene as the congregation grew and the district became more and more commercial.
The congregation commissioned the Boston-based architectural team of Charles Amos Cummings and Willard T. Sears to draw up plans for the ‘New Old South Church.’
Willard Sears would later go on to design the lush Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum. The church he designed in partnership with Cummings was massive and ornate, unusual for a New England church. The years after the Civil War were upbeat in the North and the two adopted a Gothic revival aesthetic, a popular British import of the time.
The most recent construction needed to repair the structural damage will hardly be the first renovations made to the structure. Everything about the building was enormous. The Church’s Venetian tower stood at 260 feet and it took a squad of movers and teamsters to raise the 3,285 pound bell nearly 200 feet to its place in the belfry. The church tower itself began to fail shortly after construction. In the most drastic change made to the building, the tower was pulled apart in 1931 and rebuilt in 1940. Renovations in subsequent years have kept the whole building standing since.
Read the unusual sermon delivered by the Reverend Nancy S. Taylor following the damage to the building in 2008.