A Brief Architectural History of King’s Chapel
The current King’s Chapel - designed by Peter Harrison - was constructed in the mid-18th century and is a classic example of American colonial architecture. Drawing inspiration from fashionable, contemporary churches in London, and using locally-sourced materials, Peter Harrison’s design is the epitome of Georgian architecture in America. A main characteristic of Georgian style is symmetry in the design, as if the building could be evenly folded in half with everything matching the other side.
Check out another example of Peter Harrison's Work - the 1763 Touro Synagogue (pictured), located in Newport, Rhode Island. Can you see any similarities?
Following the American Revolution, the King’s Chapel congregation raised funds to add the courtyard, portico, and columns you see before you. King’s Chapel congregant Charles Bulfinch, a famed American architect, designed the columns with the illusion that the columns were made of stone even though they are made of sand-painted wood.
Look up at the top of the columns. The decorative tops of them are called the "capitals" of the columns. Can you figure out what kind of capital tops these columns? Look at the graphic below for a clue.
Learn more about King’s Chapel and Georgian Architecture here.
Charles Bulfinch, the son of the prominent physician Thomas Bulfinch, II and Susan Apthorp Bulfinch, grew up attending King’s Chapel and remained a member for his entire life. Early in his career as an early American architect, Bulfinch used Peter Harrison’s original plan of King’s Chapel to design the columns at the front of the church. A few years later in 1788, he married his cousin Hannah Apthorp at King’s Chapel and they had seven children. Bulfinch went on to design notable buildings, such as the Massachusetts State House, Harvard’s University Hall, the Massachusetts General Hospital main campus building, and parts of the United States Capitol.
Charles and Hannah Bulfinch are buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery, after being temporarily interred at the Bulfinch family tomb in the King’s Chapel Crypt.
Did you know Charles Bulfinch’s grandfather, Charles Apthorp, was a major benefactor in building this stone King’s Chapel? The Apthorps were considered one of most prominent families in pre-Revolutionary Boston, whose wealth was closely connected to the slave trade. Learn more about slavery at King’s Chapel here.