Christ Church is the oldest example of the early Gothic Revival style in the South. It was a major commission for Richard Upjohn, architect of Trinity Church in New York and founder of the American Institute of Architects, who designed the building in 1848. The sanctuary was consecrated in 1854. The adjacent bell tower was completed in 1861, constructed of different colored stone and topped with an ancient symbol of the church--a gilded weathercock. It has been said that after Sherman’s troops went through Raleigh during the Civil War the tower’s rooster was the only chicken left in town.
Christ Church was organized in 1821 by Episcopal churches from the eastern section of the state as part of a concerted effort to establish churches in central North Carolina. A frame sanctuary, designed by state architect William Nichols, was completed later that decade. The first rector, John Stark Ravenscroft, became the first Bishop of North Carolina in 1823. He was buried beneath the chancel of the original church building in 1830 and was re-interred under the new chancel in 1850.
Subsequent changes to the sanctuary have been relatively minor. Beginning in the 1870s, the church’s original clear glass windows were gradually replaced by memorials of stained glass, the last installed in 1897. While modifications have also been made to the altar and lighting, the majority of the interior remains unchanged. By contrast, expansion of the adjoining church facilities has been significant. In all construction, close attention has been paid to the sanctuary’s Gothic style, and the use of stone. In 1914, Hobart Brown Upjohn, grandson of the church’s original architect, designed a parish house and chapel connected to the sanctuary by arched cloisters. The latter were incorporated into major additions to the parish house completed in 1941 and 1970.
Church expansion has twice required moving neighboring landmarks. The 1813 State Bank Building, which served as the church rectory from 1873 to 1951, was relocated in 1968 to allow enlargement of the parish house; the two-story brick building was placed on steel rails and moved 100 feet east. In 1981, expansion of church parking led to the moving of the 1906 Montgomery House a block southeast. Christ Church is a designated Raleigh Historic Landmark.
Christ Church, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 120 E. Edenton St. It is open to the public for services and sponsored events. Call 919-834-6259 or visit the church’s website for more information. Christ Church has also been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey
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