Designed in what was termed the Norman style, referencing its round-headed arches and broad proportions, it takes the form of a broad hall-like church that served one of the first of the city's celebrity ministers, Phillips Brooks. Notman's original scheme called for an 80-foot tower surmounted by a 140-foot spire, not unlike the tower of his earlier and nearby St. Mark's. Fortunately, the construction of the tower was delayed to the period when Philips Brooks was rector; he successfully fought for the shorter tower, without a spire, that was constructed in 1868 by George W. Hewitt, who had trained with Notman. Interior included the great preaching hall, a columnfree space capped by a trilobed roof and interrupted only by cantilevered balconies.
The founders intended to ensure a place in the neighborhood for a “low church” parish, one following simpler liturgies and emphasizing preaching. In fact, many leading members, such as merchant Lemuel Coffin who had been raised as a Quaker, had moved to the Episcopal Church from other Protestant denominations. In keeping with this vision, they chose Philadelphia architect John Notman’s design for a building of sandstone in the Norman or neo-Romanesque style often favored by low-church congregations.
A five story Parish House was added in 1890 to house the Rector, his family, and initially 6 staff members. At 14,400 square feet, this parish house was built for entertaining and living quarters. In the 1980s the Rector moved out of the Parish House and they have lived in various places throughout the city and mainline. The Rectory is now just a few blocks away from the church in the Avenue of the Arts neighborhood. When the parish house shifted away from living quarters, it became the office space for the staff of the church. The basement and 4th floors have not been in use for many years, because there is no safe egress from these areas. The first floor hosts the main office and group meeting space; the second floor hosted children and youth programs until the pandemic, and the 3rd floor is the home to the choir room and music offices.
In the late 1990s, the narthex (the entrance to the church) was expanded, glass doors installed and glass walls erected, so that the interior could be seen when the front red doors were open. Greeters and tour guides were in this area throughout the week to welcome guests. A reception desk was placed in this area in 2017 and, apart from closures during the pandemic, we have been open during the week since then.
The sanctuary was expanded in the early 2000s to make the chancel (the front of the church – where the altar and pulpit reside) flexible and able to host musical and other performing groups. Some pews were removed and the baptismal font was moved to the back of the church (near the narthex). A healing prayer corner/chapel was consecrated for the healing ministry to offer healing during the services. A columbarium was added in 2015.
In the 1950’s a room was dug out below the sanctuary to make space for events for the congregation. Named the Centennial room (as it was built around the time of the church’s centennial anniversary), it has been host to many different groups. For decades, we have been host to recovery groups. Before the pandemic, we hosted almost 20 groups each week. Post-pandemic, we have put in technology for our recover groups to meet in hybrid fashion and many have returned to in-person meetings. In 2016, we partnered with the Sunday Love Project to begin serving meals to those in need. We expanded this ministry to offer clean clothing and shoes to our guest. In 2021, the Sunday Love Project moved to another location, and the church took over the ministry. The Rev. John Gardner oversees a bi-weekly meal and clothing ministry, along with our Director of Outreach.