Architectural Tour of St. Anne’s Held at AppleFest

St. Anne's community room was filled with activity on Saturday, September 30, with AppleFest running throughout the day. Attendees browsed through vintage antiques and new crafts, took chances at raffles, and enjoyed a variety of hearty foods. (Photo by Lura Jackson)

By Lura Jackson

 

Amidst the frenzy of activity of AppleFest – which saw community members browsing through markets of various offerings both inside and outside of the church – church members and historians Shane DelMonaco and Jerry LaPointe conducted a presentation of the architecture of St. Anne’s Episcopal Church. In so doing, the pair revealed how the church has become intertwined with the community over the many decades of its existence.

St. Anne’s was designed by nationally-famed architect James Renwick, DelMonaco explained. Renwick is known for designing the oldest part of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. Though no one knows how or why Renwick took the commission to design St. Anne’s, LaPointe expressed that Calais used to be a relatively major city when the church was built in 1853. “Calais was a different place in those days, more connected to the outside world than it is now,” LaPointe said. 

Outside the church, the most striking feature of the building is certainly the clocktower. The church was originally designed with the tower, but the congregation was not able to immediately afford a clock. Soon, however, the city itself got involved. “It became a city-wide effort to install a clock in the tower,” DelMonaco said, describing how city officials felt it was in the best interest of the town to have a timepiece in such a prominent location. The clock was purchased, and a fund was established in the city’s accounts to keep the clock maintained. 

Over time, memory of the clock fund faded, and the clock itself stopped working. “My whole lifetime, the clock never worked,” recalls LaPointe, who has been attending the church since he was a baby. Once the clock fund was rediscovered, a restoration effort was held, and the clock was gradually returned to working order. Today, a group of volunteers – including DelMonaco’s father, Adrian – keep the clock running by winding it once a week. Efforts are now underway to restore the wood around the clock face.

The interior of the church is just as stunning as the exterior. The underside of the church ceiling was designed to resemble the inside of a boat, lending to the symbolism of the congregation of the church being carried as a single body. Two large windows are arranged symmetrically, one over the altar and one on the front of the church leading to the exterior. While the original altar is no longer in place, it still remains at the back of the church. Different altars have been utilized at various points, including one that had the priests with their back facing the congregation. 

In the 1980s, there was a massive restoration effort held to revive the church building. According to LaPointe, the large timbers on the corner of the tower were rotten and had to be replaced, among many other structural repairs. At the time, the church was painted gray with a red door, a condition that prompted then-Reverend Kenneth Lindsey to comment that ‘there must have been a sale on gray paint’ due to all the churches in Calais seemingly being painted gray at the time, LaPointe recalls. During the restoration, the original church colors were uncovered and restored.

There are memorial brasses along the walls, including one for Laura Burns. Per DelMonaco, Burns was “very active in the community” as a teacher and a philanthropist. When she died, she created scholarships for students of Calais High School and Shead High School at Dartmouth College and Simmons College. The Simmons scholarship has been spent, but the Dartmouth College one remains unused and by recent reports has accrued to over half a million dollars at this point. Burns also created a fund to assist the needy with medical expenses. “Not only is this a beautiful-looking building, it’s also had a congregation that’s been very active,” DelMonaco summarized. 

The congregation of St. Anne’s remains clearly committed to being active and involved with the community, as evidenced at AppleFest and by its many open-door events and meetings. 

Conducting an architectural tour of St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Calais is church member and historian Shane DelMonaco (Calais Advertiser's Paper Boy). DelMonaco expressed that the church is a treasured landmark in Calais and once served an invaluable purpose as a community timepiece. (Photo by Lura Jackson)