In 1834, a number of Bangor residents including Charles Hayes, Adolphus Converse, Joseph Bryant, and Jonathan Young began to organize an Episcopal parish in Bangor, which was already home to Congregational, Baptist, Methodist and Roman Catholic societies.
By 1835 they had elected a building committee under Hayes, who is identified as chairman in the ledger of the architect they selected, Richard Upjohn (1802-1878).
Upjohn worked in Bangor within three years of his arrival from England. A trained architect, he designed two important houses in the city, the Isaac Farrar Mansion (166 Union Street, designed 1833, not built until 1833-1846) and the Thomas A. Hill House (159 Union Street, 1835). Upjohn went on to become a prominent American architect, with a specialty in ecclesiological Gothic Revival Churches, and a founder of the American Institute of Architects; he probably became known to members of the building committee through one of these projects. The first St. John’s Church was built of wood in 1835-36 and represented the most truly Gothic interpretation of space and detailing in this part of Maine (it was not however, the first Gothic Revival church in the state). The church was not consecrated until 1839 when its debts were settled. The lithograph of St. John’s introduced the architect to the vestry of Trinity Church, New York, for whom he designed the present Trinity Church of 1839-46, a stone church and survivor of the nearby 9/11 tragedy. St. John’s Bangor was less fortunate. It burned in the Great Fire on April 30, 1911.
The present church by Upjohn’s grandson, Hobart B. Upjohn, was designed as a stone replica of the first church and built from 1912-18. The building is actually of frame construction and the interior detailing is of wood and plaster. The duplication of the elaborate tracery on both the interior and exterior made the project very expensive, and eventually the spire and a projecting choir room were omitted from the construction. Two objects saved from the burning church are still in use: the lectern and marble baptismal font. The Rev. E. H. Newbegin memorial pulpit, designed by the important architect Henry Vaughn, had been installed in the church shortly before the fire. Another rendering of the same design is in the present church. The Parish is also fortunate in possessing the four earliest parish registers. They probably survive because they were not in the church at the time of the fire.
In 1939, the women of the parish financed the construction of the Parish House and Bethlehem Chapel, designed by the Brewer architect, Edwin S. Kent. The Chapel is a simpler stone Gothic structure which harmonizes with the Upjohn design. All the stained glass memorial windows in both buildings were designed by Charles J. Connick Associates and installed over a period of years. The reredos was carved in Europe and given as a memorial to Thomas Newhall Egery and Sarah Edith Egery by their daughters; the figures in it were carved and installed in the 1960s by a Bangor sculptor, Margaret Vincent Stoeckler. Included with Jesus and the saints are Henry Knox Sherrill, Presiding Bishop 1947-58 and Phillips Brooks, rector of Trinity Church, Boston in the latter 19th century.
The Parish House, the link between the church and chapel, was totally remodeled in 1995 to provide a new handicap-accessible entrance, an elevator, and functional service spaces for meetings and the choir (Christian Fasoldt, architect). The kitchen, lavatories, and security services were also upgraded at this time. A few years earlier, the parish purchased 234 French Street. This former house, previously remodeled as a classroom building by Husson College, now provides the ample office, educational, library and meeting spaces that could not be supplied by the earlier Parish House.
Deborah Thompson, Architectural Historian
November 21, 2003