St. John's Church
Salem, Salem County
founded 1724, built 1837-38
St. John's is an early or primitive Gothic church. The design is pretty clearly based on Ithiel Town's Trinity church in New Haven, Connecticut, erected in 1814. Town was one of the country's leading architects, and his work was exceptionally influential. Trinity is not an authentic Gothic church in the sense that Burlington's St. Mary's or Philadelphia's St. James the Less are. St. Johns, like Town's Trinity church, is a basic Wren-Gibbs plan—a rectangular nave with a projecting tower—to which the architect has appended a chancel, Gothic arch openings for the windows, some tracery, and a few spires, pinnacles or crenellations. It is fair to consider St. John's as the earliest church in the county that draws on the Gothic idiom. Trinity, incidentally, was based on a drawing in James Gibbs Book of Architecture, published in 1728, and that drawing was of the All Saints church in Derby, England, erected in the thirteenth century.
Organized in 1722, this relatively early English Gothic church was built in 1838. William Strickland, a Philadelphia architect and engineer, was responsible. Architectural historian Phoebe Stanton notes that this church and Christ Church in Easton, Maryland were built from the same set of plans. It seems the new minister of Christ Church brought with him the plans for the Salem church when he arrived there about 1844. (I'm sure the Maryland vestry paid Strickland for the plans, yes, indeed.) The same plans were also used, I believe for the Bethany Presbyterian church in Bridgeton. A contemporary article in the local Salem paper calls the style "Norman," but most architectural historians label it "early Gothic." It certainly has the tall Gothic arches although in several other respects it does not reflect the ideas of the Ecclesiological movement that was to become so influential in Episcopal church building by the middle of the next decade.
Strickland is one of the most important architects in the early decades of the 19th century. He designed the Second Bank of the United States (Philadelphia), which set in motion the demand for Greek Revival in this country, but he is perhaps best known for his design of the state capital in Tennessee, where he is buried.