Locations >> Buildings by Neighborhood >> Downtown: Grace Episcopal Church


Erected in 1845 on the site of a former theater, the Grace Church in Providence can be seen as the testing ground for what would become a signature of America's pre-eminent nineteenth century cathedral architect, Richard Upjohn. Grace Church contains the first painted windows ever seen in Rhode Island - over fifteen magnificent stained glass windows dated 1875-1929 with one window designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Complete with a nave arcaded in the 14 th century English manner and an elaborate trussed roof, its great sense of spaciousness can be attributed to the omission of galleries, the smaller scale of the piers and the chancel arch, which attained a considerable depth of seventeen feet.


Externally, Grace Church follows Upjohn's rendered drawing quite closely, though without the filigrane parapet and with the tower and spire made simpler due to economic considerations. The tower, located at a corner, gave Providence its first asymmetrical church composition. This characteristic is probably more due to its corner site rather than a deliberate adoption of medieval asymmetry in response to Gothic Revival theorists.

The Bells

In 1860, Henry N. Hooper and Company of Boston cast and installed 16 bells weighing an aggregate of over 8 tons at the cost of $6,000. The bells have an unusual form, adopting the proportions of Spanish bells, which are longer in the waist and produces the sounds of the minor third in the harmonics instead of the major third that is commonly used. Each bell is inscribed with the name of its donor and the third bell, tuned to F-sharp, is the Brown University Bell, which was presented by John Carter Brown of the University's Class of 1816. This bell was presented on the condition that the chimes would be rung on the morning and afternoon of every Commencement Day. Thus far, the bells have played the Brown "Alma Mater" each year for well over 100 years.


Cady, John Hutchins. The civic and architectural development of Providence 1636-1950, Providence, Book Shop, 1957

Jordy, William H. Buildings on Paper : Rhode Island architectural drawings, 1825-1945 Providence, R.I. : Bell Gallery, List Art Center, Brown University, 1982

Upjohn, Everard Miller. Richard Upjohn, architect and churchman, New York, Da Capo Press, 1968 [c1939]

Eames, Jane Anthony. Sketch of the rise and progress of Grace Church, Providence, compiled by a layman, for the Providence Journal 1857, Providence, 1857

Grace Church needs a Parish House. Providence , R.I. : Livermore & Knight Co., [1891]