The Park Street Church was founded over 200 years ago by a band of Christians who decided to break away from the worshipers at the Old South Church. They chose the site at the corner of Park and Tremont Streets, atop the site of Boston’s town grain storage building, for construction of their new church. The church’s towering 217-foot steeple was one of the first landmarks travelers saw when approaching Boston by sea. Park Street Church also became known for supporting abolitionism and social justice. On July 4, 1829, a young William Lloyd Garrison delivered his first major public speech against slavery.
Park Street Church began as a
small group of twenty-six devoted Christians who broke away from the Old South
Church. They formed the “Religious
Improvement Society” in 1804 and stated to hold their own weekly prayer
meetings and lectures. In 1809, they
established the Park Street Church and raised enough funds to build the
magnificent structure that still stands at the edge of the Boston Common
The Park Street Church was
designed by Peter Banner and constructed in 1809. It sits on the former site of a colonial
granary near the edge of Boston Common.
Banner was a well-known English architect who designed several buildings
at Yale in New Haven prior to moving to Boston.
Here, he designed and constructed a home for Ebenezer Craft as well as
the buildings at India Wharf. Banner was
also a skilled mason and carpenter. He
was often involved in the hands-on work at the buildings that he had designed.
The church is notable for its
tall steeple. The spire extends 217 feet
into the air. At one time, this steeple
was one of the first landmarks that visitors to the city would see upon their
arrival. He created the steeple as a
homage to British architect Christopher Wren.
Wren had implemented a similar design at St. Bride’s Church in London.
Nearly ten years after its
construction (1818), the Park Street Church hosted the country’s first Sunday
School. In the coming years, the church
would serve as a beacon for social justice. Speeches arguing for the
abolishment of slavery and the rights of African-Americans took place on these
steps, including the first public speech delivered by a rising member of the
anti-slavery movement, William Lloyd Garrison.
On July 4, 1831, the children’s
choir of the Park Street Church gave the first a capella performance of “My
Country ‘Tis of Thee” at the site.
The site of the Park Street
Church is often referred to as “Brimstone Corner.” There are two theories about why the location
was given that nickname. First, it may
have been because the basement was used to store gunpowder and other sulfuric
components during the War of 1812. The other theory is that the types of
passionate sermons given at the church gave it the fiery nickname.
Today, the Park Street Church describes
itself as an Evangelical, Congregational, and International house of worship. Sermons and study groups are still held several
times a week. In addition, the church is
open for Freedom Trail Tours throughout the year.
Park Street Church
The English architect Peter
Banner designed Park Street Church. It was built in 1809 on the site of the old
Granary for which the adjoining burying ground, much older than the church, was
named. / On July 4, 1829, William Lloyd Garrison delivered his first
anti-slavery speech here and so launched his emancipation campaign with the
words: “Since the cause of emancipation must progress heavily, and must meet
with much unhallowed opposition – why delay the work?”