St. Stephen's Church
Beverly, Burlington County
founded c.1837, built 1853-55; enlarged in 1869
Organized in 1837, this is the second church built by this Episcopal congregation. It was started in 1853, according to the church’s application for National Register designation, with an addition in 1870. In 1877, the “whole edifice was renovated, improved, and beautified,” according to Woodward's history of the period.
The original dimensions of the church were 47' x 77', but an additional 27' was appended to the rear in a major renovation in 1869. The building is constructed of Trenton brownstone and sports a 90' steeple that was originally sheathed in slate. There is a full basement with Sunday school rooms, a choir area and storage. The sanctuary has an articulated chancel, essential for any Episcopal church erected during the bishopric of George Washington Doane, but that is not evident from the exterior. There is wainscoting along the walls and the ceiling is supported by mahogany-stained trusses resting on stone corbels.
The windows were originally of clear glass, but they has been replaced with stained glass ones dating from about 1877 to the 1980s. Several are from the famed Lamb Studio in New York, and one from the Willet Studio in Philadelphia. A couple look to me to incorporate pre-Raphaelite figures, so may be English in origin.
The builder was Thomas Harris of Beverly, but I suspect that Frank Wills was somehow involved. Tucked into the cornerstone was a report of the New York Ecclesiological Society of 1851, and Wills was its official architect. Architectural historian Phoebe Stanton notes that “the Ecclesiologists certainly attempted to dictate matters of design; their criticisms of church buildings, such as those that appeared [in their publications] . . . encircled them with dos and don’t's. Architects who departed from ecclesiological rules exposed themselves to public criticism and charges of ineptitude.” A builder like Mr. Harris, who was not a well-established architect, would have had some trepidation deviating from the Ecclesiologists, so I believe he may have worked closely with Wills.
The 1869 addition was designed and supervised by the Philadelphia firm of Frazer, Furness and Hewitt, with George Hewitt as the principal architect. Hewitt also designed Grace Church in Haddonfield, St. Andrew's in Lambertville, and Saint John the Evangelist in Chew's Landing, all solid Gothic Revival churches for Episcopal congregations.
The church complex includes a parish hall, erected in the Stick style in 1897-98 and the rectory, in a similar style. The parish hall, a very stylish building that appears now to have been changed over the years, was designed by Hewitt’s brother William, who designed the Providence Presbyterian church near Florence.