The Christ Episcopal Church, located at the corner of Eddy and Oxford Streets in South Providence was consecrated in September 1889. It was the second church building for the Episcopalian community there, organized in 1865. There is not much information regarding the commission or construction of the church, despite the fame of its designing architects, William R. Walker & Son.
William R. Walker & Son designed many buildings in Providence and the surrounding areas. The majority of them were public buildings, such as the now Narragansett Hotel in downtown Providence (now demolished), a courthouse in Woonsocket and a Town Hall in East Providence. The Christ Church at Eddy Street was one of only two churches to have been designed by them prior to 1895 and the publishing of their portfolio. For this, one would imagine that the church would be much more documented, but unfortunately, this is not the case.
The building is designed in the Gothic style and is approximately 100 x 80 feet large with a tower reaching 120 feet high. The base is made of granite and the walls are of Danvers pressed brick with brownstone trimmings. At the time of its completion, it was believed to have a capacity of 800 people.
Today , the Church is on the Providence Preservation Society's Ten Most Endangered Properties list for the third time in four years. It has been vacant and without a cohesive congregation since 1981, when the separate groups of the congregation filed suit against each other for ownership of the building. The lawsuit was finally settled earlier this year but the church building continues to deteriorate. In April 2003, the Providence Department of Inspection and Standards found a number of violations including the crumbling of brick veneer, falling bricks, and loose window frames which pose a danger to the surrounding community.
The current owner hopes to re-establish a church there, under the name Church Jesus New Deal, and rebuild the congregation.
The Episcopal Church has quite a history here in New England. Though Roger Williams is commonly believed to have first established the state of Rhode Island, it is believed that one William Blackstone, also from Massachusetts, was driven out first and established the Episcopalian Church a few months before Williams was ever expelled from the colony.
Churches sprung up throughout the state in the years following Blackstone's death in 1675. The first was Trinity Church of Newport (1698), followed by St. Paul's in Narragansett County (1701), St. Michael's in Bristol (1719), and King's Church in Providence (1770).
The Episcopal Church suffered greatly following the Revolutionary War. Because of its affiliation with the Church of England, locals held the denomination in contempt. As a result, the sect practically disappeared. Trinity church was converted into a meeting house for the Six Principal Baptist Church; St. Paul's was used as a military barracks; St. Michael's was burned down and The King's Church was destroyed.
The next Episcopal Church in Rhode Island was not erected until 1816 (St. Paul's Church in Pawtucket).
1. Bayles, Richard M., ed. History of Providence Country, Rhode Island (New York:W.W. Preston & Co., 1891)
2. Letter from Department of Inspection and Standards to Church of God in Christ Jesus, dated 04/23/2003, RE: 909 Eddy Street
3. Mary Kate Harrington, Project Director at Providence Preservation Society (October 30, 2003)
William Walker & Son Portfolio, 1895
4. "For More than Two Centuries: History of Episcopal Church in Rhode Island During that Time," 05/15/1905:10
5. "Church will Hold 50th Anniversayr," 05/06/1917:5
6. "Local History on the Brink," 10/23/2003: D1