By Jennifer Roesch, History Program Assistant
In a church that’s over 260 years old, restoration and preservation efforts are seemingly on-going. The most recent project happened earlier this year, luckily before the pandemic hit Boston in full-force. Starting in early January, John Canning & Co spent weeks giving the King’s Chapel ceiling a face-lift with new plaster and a fresh coat of paint. Thanks to the newly restored-ceiling, the chandelier that hangs in the center stands out.
It may be surprising to some that the brass chandelier has adorned the chapel for less than one hundred years. This is quite unusual, especially since our daughter Anglican church, Old North Church, has had a candle-lit chandelier hanging in the center since the 1720s. While some partial gas lighting was installed at King's Chapel in the 1870s to the tops of the columns, the electrified chandelier was installed in the 1930s and became the chapel’s first centralized light source. The chandelier was designed by Smith & Walker, the architecture firm helping to restore the chapel at the time, and was built by Bigelow and Kennard, a local jewelry and clock making firm.
Records have yet to be found of major restoration efforts to the chandelier since it was hung. However, routine maintenance is required- such as polishing and dusting- which is no small feat. Large chandeliers hanging in high ceilings are impossible to light or clean with just a stool or ladder and often need a pulley system with a crank to lift and lower the entire light fixture. For the King’s Chapel chandelier, the crank is found in the attic.
When the King’s Chapel Sexton (or caretaker) Clark Aikins dusted and polished the chandelier last fall, the History Program was able to record the process. This included a timelapse showing the chandelier being put back in place by Clark, who was up in the attic using the crank. The pictures of the lowered chandelier in between the center box pews also provide a unique, up-close view of the electrified light fixture.
How does the up-close view change your perspective of the King’s Chapel chandelier? Or does it? Do you think the 1930s chandelier seems like it belongs in a chapel designed and built in the 18th century?
As we continue our social media series for #PreservationMonth, our Educators will expose the many other layers of King’s Chapel’s building history, like Lily’s post today about the chandelier. Follow us on social media to learn more and test your knowledge by answering the trivia question in our Facebook and Instagram stories related to our post each day!
Clancy, Goody. Historic Structures Report for King’s Chapel in Boston. June 2006.
King's Chapel History Program
Dive deeper into King's Chapel's 337 year history on the History Program blog.