The former Methodist Episcopal Church standing opposite of St. John’s Church in Essex, NY, is the oldest church structure that remains standing in the village. However, it no longer serves as a church. Locals generally refer to it as the “Old Stone Church” when conversing about it.
The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized Jan. 12, 1835, and the building constructed next year with improvements made in 1876 and 1884 (Belden Noble Memorial Library. Essex, New York: An Early History. Burlington, VT: Queen City Printers, 2003. 77).
Church services were discontinued in this building with formation of the Federated Church in 1922, as this church joined with the Baptist and Presbyterian churches to form the Essex Community Church.
The building was used by the Masonic Order until 1930 when the group moved to the old Baptist Church, and subsequently the old stone church was purchased by the American Legion two years later (Belden Noble Memorial Library. Essex, New York: Lake Champlain’s Historic Harbor. 1969. 27). The lower level of the building was used as the Essex Nutrition Site for seniors for many years.
The building was given to the town in 2007, “in order for a restoration grant administered by Historic Essex to proceed” (Images of America: Essex on Lake Champlain 72). The town sold the building in 2017 (note: unsure of the exact date) and it is now available to rent for special events.
Church Architecture and Details
Built in 1835, it is a very simple expression of the Gothic Revival style, which was favored for church architecture because of its Christian antecedents, even when the architecture of the ancient “pagan” Greeks was being imitated for residential building in the Greek Revival style. (“Essex: An Architectural Guide.” 16)
The simple steeple and belltower that once graced the roof was lost over 50 years ago and has not been reconstructed. The lancet arch windows add a Gothic element to this limestone building (Images of America: Essex on Lake Champlain 72). The stonework around these windows is indicative of very fine original craftsmanship, although the colorful stained glass in the windows is a nineteenth-century alteration (“Essex: An Architectural Guide.” 16).
Inside the old church, the entryway leads to a vestibule and a divided staircase then up to a raised sanctuary (Images of America: Essex on Lake Champlain 72).
The center ceiling medallion with carved plasterwork retains its blue and silver 1850s color scheme. (Images of America: Essex on Lake Champlain 72)
This map (with satellite image overlay) will help you locate the former Methodist Episcopal Church and see how its location relates to other historic buildings in Essex’s historic district.
View Discover Essex on Lake Champlain in a larger map
Belden Noble Memorial Library. Essex, New York: An Early History. Burlington, VT: Queen City Printers, 2003. Print.
Belden Noble Memorial Library. Essex, New York: Lake Champlain’s Historic Harbor. 1969. Print.
“Essex: An Architectural Guide.” Essex Community Heritage Organization, 1986.
Hislop, David C., Jr. Essex on Lake Champlain. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub., 2009. Print. Images of America.
“Historic Essex.” Historic Essex. Essex Community Heritage Organization. Web. 26 Feb. 2013. <http://www.essexny.org/>.
Smith, H. P. History of Essex County: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Syracuse, N. Y.: D. Mason &, 1885. Print.