Quincy, Mass. Historical and Architectural Survey

115 Crescent Street (St. Mary's Church)

The opening of the granite quarries in the 1820's brought many Catholics to West Quincy and although the first mass was celebrated in the city in 1826 in what was called "Long House" which stood near the present Furnace Brook Parkway on Adams Street it was not until 1842 that the first Catholic parish. St. Mary's, was established. St. Mary's became the Mother Church of the South Shore and served the towns of Abington, Braintree, Cohasset, Hingham, Milton, Randolph, and Weymouth. However, in 1853, St. John's Church was built on School Street to service the Catholics in the central and northern sections of the city and in 1864 St. John's became the central parish with St. Mary's a mission parish. It was not until 1900 when Reverend Ambrose Roche was pastor that St. Mary's was restored to a parish.

The original 1842 wooden church, which was built on land purchased from James Hall, for whom the adjacent Hall Place Cemetery is named, was dedicated by the Right Reverend Bishop Fenwick. The parish grew rapidly and soon the original seating capacity of 400 was inadequate and two additions were added on to the building. Industry in West Quincy continued to thrive, especially that related to the nearby quarries; more and more people were moving into tile district. A new church was clearly necessary. The basement was completed, for the new church in 1900 and mass was celebrated there until the Church itself was completed in 1917. The original 1842 building became St. Joseph's Hall and served as a center for parochial parish activity until it was demolished in 1964.

Built at a cost of $60,000, the erection of the new church was a project of the entire parish. Skilled and unskilled workmen alike gave their time and labor, cutting the granite, and bringing it from the quarries to the land beside the original church and working on the actual construction on The architect was Charles R. Greco of Boston and the contractor was for both St. Mary's and the later St. Ann's, was John F. Griffin, also of Boston.

Assessors records.
Building Permit.
William Churchill Edwards. Historic Quincy, Massachusetts, 1957, p. 133.
H. Hobart Holly, ed. Quincy: 350 Years, 1974, p. 17.
William S. Pattee. History of Old Braintree and Quiny, 1878, p. 278.
Quincy Patriot Ledger, June 3, 1952; June 4, 1952; October 18, 1958; October 22, 1965; October 30, 1965.
Quincy Patriot Ledger: 100th Anniversary. January 7, 1937, p. D-19.
Douglas Shand Tucci. Build in Boston: City and Suburb 1800-1950, p.158-162.

The Gothic Revival style continued to be favored by architects of ecclesiastical structures well into the mid 20th century. The influence of Ralph Adams Cram (1863-1942) "American Medievalist" was "most keenly felt in the mushrooming early twentieth-century suburbs around Boston" (Tucci). Cram wrote over two dozen books; he strongly urged for the distinction between copying and adapting for he felt "servile copying" was not true art and modern necessitites must shape new Gothic forms, that principles should be "studied and not mouldings." His theory of "creative scholarship" was studied and much admired. Cram and his designing partners designed well over fifty churches in the United States and dominated American church architecture between 1900 and 1940.

St. Mary's Church is one of the largest church buildings in Quincy. Designed in a robust Gothic Revival style by Charles R. Greco of Boston (he had just finished working on the Blessed Sacrament Church in Jamaica Plain) in 1917, it stands proud and high on a rise with a facade dominated by an impressively large square battlemented tower at its left evoking English model of the Gothic Perpendicular style of the 15th century. The tower also pays homage to Ruskinian Gothicism in the use of polychromatic elements found in the constrasting stone string courses, window surrounds and banding of the stepped buttrresses. It is the most elborate of all of Quincy's Gothic Revival churches. It is replete with most of the vocabulary of the style: a picturesque silhouette, irregular lancet shaped windows, thick buttresses on the side elevations and the corners, a large perpendicular window filling the gabled facade, an entry porch on the side, and a statue of the Virgin Mary strategically placed between the double door in the manner of 13th century cathedrals. Communally built of granite from quarries where the parishioners worked, it is a proud monument to Quincy catholicism. St. Mary's Church is one of Quincy's most important ecclesiastical structures and should be considered for nomination to the National Reigster of Historic Places.