authoritative source on
early churches of New Jersey
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Congregational Church of Chester
Chester, Morris County
Revival was no longer considered the most fashionable style for a
New Jersey church when the Congregational church in Chester erected
this lovely building in 1856, but no matter because they looked back
to New England for their inspiration. A full Greek portico was part
of the Wren-Gibbs tradition that many Congregational churches in Massachusetts
and Connecticut had used for decades. Whereas most of the Greek revival
churches in the region, including the Presbyterian church in Chester,
have two Ionic columns, a recessed entrance (in antis) and
four corner pilasters, the columns of this full portico are Doric.
the tower once
had a rather
imposing steeple, as that was
The congregation traces its inception to a small
settlers from Long Island (who probably came initially from Connecticut) who
were in this
the 1730s. There was apparently a union
meetinghouse in the Roxiticus area, but in 1747 the Congregational portion
the membership decided to erect their own church; a curious decision because
of the early Puritan (Congregational) churches in the state had become affiliated
with the Presbyterian church. There were not, I understand, significant doctrinal
or liturgical issues between Presbyterian and Congregational churches, but only
matters of governance. In any event, they erected a large church capable of seating
400 near the site of the current church. In 1803 they built a new church, probably
in the middle of the cemetery, and in 1856 erected this imposing building.
Among the several notable aspects are the trompe
l'oeil painting on the back
wall of the chancel, the three aisles dividing seating on the main floor, and
the existence of the horse sheds in back of the church. There is also an adjacent
chapel erected in 1871.
building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.