One of the few remaining buildings designed in the Gothic Revival architectural style in the entirety of the city, Portland, Maine’s Chestnut Street Methodist Church stands as an exemplary specimen of an architectural style that is fading from the face of Maine. The Church was designed by a renowned architect of the time by the name of Charles A. Alexander, whose other marvelous designs dot the City of Portland. Having served the City of Portland in multiple faculties over the years since its construction in 1856, the Church now serves as the home of the “Grace” restaurant, which seeks to offer a quality dining experience beneath the colored sunlight that pours in through the Church’s stained glass windows.
1856, the stalwart Methodist community of Portland had been meeting in the
buildings that previously inhabited the site since at least 1808. Charles Alexander was the one to undertake
the project to give the Methodist community a spiritual home in the physical
world. Alexander designed the Church in
the Gothic Revival style, which was characterized by complex, intricate
designs, stained glass windows, and lancet arch-work. The Chestnut Street Church exhibits all of
these features, including set-back buttresses that are frequently seen in the
architectural works of the original Gothic era.
Alexander had done extensive works in the City of Portland previous to his work
on the Chestnut Street Methodist Church.
His work included St. Lukes Episcopal, J.B. Brown’s “Bramhall” estate,
the Libby House, J.B. Brown’s Sugar House, and the Union Street Church. Most of his works have been either demolished
throughout the years, or heavily altered.
Only the Chestnut Street Methodist Church stands as a largely unaltered
example of his work.
Chestnut Street Church holds a special title that no other Methodist church in
the world can claim: it was the first Methodist church to house a pipe
organ. Much of the original organ still
resides within the Church to this day.
In 1924, as the result of a growing congregation from a union with two
nearby churches, the church constructed a community house and a gymnasium that
were built to match the Gothic Revival architectural style.
close to the downtown of Portland, amid buildings of much different styles, the
Chestnut Street Methodist Church stands out as a solitary reminder of the style
that so many great architects of the late 1800s worked in. Though it is no longer used as a church, the Grace
restaurant has sought to preserve the Church’s historical integrity whilst
ensuring the building maintains financial viability. The interior has been somewhat renovated to
allow for restaurant usage, but the majority of the core architecture
remains. The restaurant preserves the original
pews in the central area of the Church, and the original pulpit is maintained
for use by the host/hostess.