St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Royalton, Vermont


SUMMARY: St. Paul's Episcopal Church is located on the village common in the center of Royalton, a compact, linear village in Vermont's White River Valley. The church is a small, vernacular-Gothic Revival building constructed in 1836. The builder and architect are unknown. It faces north onto the main road, Vermont Route 14, east of the intersection with Bridge Street. The small church lot gently slopes to the south. A short path leads from the main road to a granite step at the church entrance, passing between two rectangular granite hitching posts with curled metal horns imbedded in their tops. Only stumps remain of the two large shade tree east of the church, but trees remain on the other three sides. The rectangular, front gable, one-and-one-half story church is three bays wide and three bays deep. Dominating the central bay of the front facade is a projecting, three story bell tower with a flat, bracketed roof. This tower houses the building entrance and is decorated with Gothic Revival elements including a trinity window and louvered gothic arches surrounding the bell chamber. Original interior elements include wall and cornice paper stenciling, a pipe organ, ingrained carpet, and kerosene lamps. St. Paul's Church was updated between 1880 and 1900, an event which marks the changing architectural tastes of local parishioners. The newer Queen Anne style interior elements include stained glass windows, elaborate woodwork, and first generation electric light fixtures. The building is in excellent condition. It has undergone some superficial changes over time, but still retains its aspects of integrity including location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association.

EXTERIOR: The exterior of St. Paul's is marked by its simplicity, symmetry, and austerity. The structure rests on a foundation of cut fieldstone slabs and is covered by a standing seam metal roof. A brick chimney flue is located on the center roof ridgeline near the southern end of the church, and a small, modern metal chimney is located in the northeast corner of the roof. The hewn post and beam building is clad with white painted clapboards and decorated with corner boards extending down to a water table. The cornice lines consist of simple ovolo moldings below boxed side eaves; the gable ends are partially enclosed by cornice returns. The entrance, located in the bell tower, is a six-paneled door with a plain wood surround and a simple door hood supported by scrolled consoles. The second story of the front bell tower facade is ornamented with a trinity window, a triangular shaped window filled with diamond shaped panes overlying an inverted trefoil. Gothic arches with removable louvered shutters conceal the bell on each side of the third story of the tower. The bell tower is capped by a flat roof supported by scrolled wood brackets. The ground floor fenestration on the front and side facades consists of ten windows, approximately four feet wide and eight feet tall, with plain wood surrounds, drip caps, and shutter hooks. Two windows, twenty-over-twenty with double-hung sash, are located on the sides of the projecting tower. Two abstract patterned stained glass windows are located on the front facade of the building, flanking the tower. The six side windows are all abstract patterned stained glass. Centered on and dominating the rear facade of the church is a large stained glass chancel window, approximately six feet wide and twelve feet tall. A small one-over-one, double hung sash window is asymmetrically placed to the west of this stained glass window, and lights the sacristy. The stained glass windows have all been recently repaired and reinforced but the center window on the west side has a small bullet hole in its lower left corner. All windows have been covered with external wire mesh for their protection. The current exterior reflects changes made to the original appearance of the church. Historic documents and photographs indicate that the structure was originally painted brown, in the Gothic Revival style, and that the tower roof was surrounded by a low, wood balustrade, but no remnants are visible today. The bell was purchased in 1869 with funds given by Reverend Caswall of Figheldean, England. The large stained glass chancel window was installed in 1885. The other stained glass windows were installed in the 1890s, and are believed to have replaced clear glass windows similar to those on the sides of the tower. No shutters hang from the shutter hooks today, but three shutters are stored inside church. The small sacristy window was cut through in the 1930s. The metal roof is not original, but its age and the original roofing materials are unknown.


The tower houses a small entrance hall. The interior window surrounds and front door surround are all plain wood with a simple bead painted white. The entranceway has a white coat of paint applied over a coat of pink calcimine paint, but the new paint does not adhere well. A matchstick siding, first floor ceiling conceals the bell chamber and the bell cord falls through a small hole in the ceiling corner. Grain-painted, four-paneled double leaf doors lead from this hall into the church. The church interior is a single room; the first three quarters of the space is designated as the sanctuary and the rear quarter is reserved for the chancel. The sanctuary contains eleven pews and a rear bench on either side of the center aisle and aisles down each side. 1842, the church had acquired the small, one-manual tracker-action pipe organ located in the southeast corner of the sanctuary. A scuttle in the northwestern corner of the ceiling leads to the unfinished attic, through which the bell chamber is accessed. The original wood stove was replaced by the gas furnace located in the northeast corner of the sanctuary. The hooks that held the original smokepipe, suspended down the length of the ceiling above the center aisle to the chimney vent just before the chancel, are still in the present in the ceiling. The chancel is elevated above the sanctuary by a step and a low railing which opens at the center aisle. The oak chancel furnishings, including the altar, bishopís chair, and baptismal font were removed after the churchís deconsecration in 1996, but a pulpit and an oak kneeler remain. The two kerosene lamps on the chancel sides are still functional. A hanging curtain leads to the sacristy to the west of the altar area and a door leads to a storage room to the east of the altar area. These enclosures set the chancel off from the sanctuary and give it a sense of depth. The dividing line between the sacristy and the sanctuary is located down the center of the last stained glass window on the west facade, rendering it awkward when viewed from the interior, but preserving the exterior symmetry. The original wall and floor finishes in the sanctuary and the chancel are marked by subtlety and elegance. The original Gothic Revival style ingrained carpet, a diamond hatch pattern of red crosses and diamonds over a dark green backing, is still present under the pews in the sanctuary. The red carpeting in the aisles is modern.

The sanctuary walls are currently painted light green, and the bottom third of the walls are painted dark green, simulating wainscoting. A small section of the original wall stenciling has been uncovered below these later coats of green paint, revealing a delicate pattern of brown stylized fleur-de-lis on muted gold walls. The original stenciled cornice paper is still present and visible in the sanctuary. This paper is decorated with a string of dark gold fleur-de-lis connected by abstract patterns of swirls and lines on a lighter gold background.

The chancel has modern red carpeting, but the original stenciling on the walls and cornice paper is still present. The chancel walls are painted a light grayish-green and stenciled with a gold fleur-de-lis design. The cornice paper retains the same design from the sanctuary, but the background is colored a dark green, which further separates the chancel from the sanctuary and accentuates the sense of depth. The church interior was updated with Queen Anne style details in the last two decades of the nineteenth century.

Two styles of leaded stained glass windows were installed in the sanctuary after 1891. The two windows on the front facade and the two windows in the third side bay are simple, abstract designs of circles and diamonds. The other four windows, in the first and second side bays, are more elaborate, incorporating arches and foils into the abstract pattern of circles and diamonds. The large chancel window was installed in 1885. The design of this 'All Saints' window consists of a gothic arch enclosing a banner which reads 'BLESSING/AND GLORY/AND HONOR/BE UNTO/ OUR LORD/FOR EVER/REV: XII./R/AMEN.' and surrounded by geometric interlocking crosses. The simple window and door surrounds throughout the church interior were replaced at this time by more intricately styled woodwork, decorated with flutes and corner block paterae. New wood pews decorated with corner rosettes were also installed after 1891. There is no evidence that the originals were box pews. An electric system was installed in 1898, reflecting the technological advances of the late nineteenth century. The building still retains five first-generation carbon-filament light fixtures.