All Souls Congregational Church of Bangor, Maine is a grand church that sits in the center of the city on one of Bangor’s busiest roads. It was constructed in 1911 to designs by nationally respected architect Ralph Adams Cram. The church is a Latin cross with a unique roof design that gives it characteristics of ship churches in England. It is one of a small handful of buildings that retains its original style on the road, surrounded by modern buildings such as gas stations and groceries. Another historical building, John Bapst Memorial High School, stands a short distance down the road.
All Souls was constructed in a neighborhood that was, at the time, the prime of Bangor’s residential neighborhoods. Once surrounded by quality residences, the neighborhood has changed greatly over the century since All Souls’ construction. It was the product of an aspiring new congregation, formed by two congregations displaced by Bangor’s 1911 fire, who sought to construct a handsome structure for worship.
A number of Bangor’s wealthiest considered themselves a part of the merged congregation of two other churches, the First and the Third Congregational churches, which took on the name All Souls. As a result, there was a push to bring a new level of architectural quality to the City of Bangor, seemingly a statement of defiance against the fire that destroyed so much. All Souls hired Ralph Adams Cram, whose curriculum vitae included some of the United States’ finest Gothic churches. The building site of the church, perched at the top of the State Street hill, was a challenging location that caught Cram’s interest, and he designed a fabulous church to house the congregation.
Cram, born in New Hampshire in December of 1863, was an incredibly accomplished architect and was well-renowned for his work. His works include New York City’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the Princeton University Chapel and Graduate College, and the uniquely Japanese-styled “House of the Rising Sun” in Fall River, Massachusetts. Additionally, he led Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Architecture Department and published a great number of influential books on architecture including a study on Japanese architectural styles. As an interesting side note, Ralph Adams Cram was also a fiction writer whose weird fiction pieces gained praise and commentary from H.P. Lovecraft.
To this day (as of the creation of this entry in 2017,) All Souls Congregational Church still houses a very active congregation. So centrally located in Bangor, most locals are intimately familiar with the structure and its unique overlook of the City of Bangor. It’s stained glass windows, wonderfully preserved, are an attraction for locals and travelers alike.