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This full blown expression of Roman Classicism reflects the desire of somewhat marginalized religious groups to associate with mainstream architecture, which this was at the time of its construction, as well as to associate themselves with the Platonic rationalism of Renaissance thinking akin to their religious beliefs. Hoppin & Field’s design is competent, if dry, perhaps a subliminal response on the part of otherwise passionate and flamboyant architects to the mind-over-matter attitude of their clients. The model, of course, is Brigham & Beman’s basilica (1903-06) on Huntington Avenue in Boston, the world headquarters of this denomination. No doubt the awareness of local Christian Scientists that the organization’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy, was a Providence native spurred them on to create a center for worship that is even more prominently sited, at the very crest of College Hill than the Mother Church.

– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture

The prominent copper hemispherical dome atop this monumental building is a landmark on the East Side skyline. Based on 16th-century Italian ecclesiastical prototypes, the cruciform-plan church is closely related to The Mother Church (Brigham & Beman, 1903-1906) at Massachusetts and Huntington Avenues in Boston. The allusion to the humanist, rationalist Italian Renaissance is eminently appropriate for this denomination. Indeed, the relationship of form to philosophy here is as close as that of contemporary Anglican churches, where English Gothic provided an appropriate setting from strongly medievalizing liturgy.

The interior organization reflects the emphasis on the dissemination and interpretation of the Word of God and follows the auditorium format often used in contemporary Protestant churches. A large entrance hall on the ground floor provides access to twin staircases to the north and south that lead to the worship space. Colossal Cornithian pilasters define the perimeter of the auditorium, and a third-story balcony provides additional seating. Above is a low saucer dome with leaded translucent glass.

Christian Scientists in Providence began to hold informal services in 1889 and received a charter from the state legislature in 1895. Their first building, at 250 Bowen Street, was used until the completion of this building, now celebrating its centennial. 

– Festival of Historic Houses Guidebook, 2013

© 2019 Guide to Providence Architecture. All rights reserved.
Design by J. Hogue at Highchair designhaus, with development & support by Kay Belardinelli.