Photo credit: Cathy Hardy , 04/30/2003

Property Name: St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, Newport
Date Listed: 5/30/1991
Inventory No.: CH-20
Location: St. Mary's Church Road, Newport, Charles County

Description: Converted for use as a parish hall in 1906 and now vacant, St. Mary's Church is a rectangular brick structure, four bays in length and three bays wide at its former west end facade. The exterior walls, incorporating portions of an earlier church structure, are of common bond construction and were once painted, which probably first occurred when the building achieved its present form c. 1840. Of simple architectural styling typical of the Greek Revival period in this locality, the exterior features large, 12/12 pane sash windows with marble sills, and sawtooth-patterned corbeled eaves on the side elevations. The windows were originally fitted with exterior blinds, since removed, and the formerly wood-singled roof has been overlaid with metal sheathing. A marble cornerstone at the building's northeast corner bears the date 1840. On the interior there is a single large room below a vaulted ceiling, with a balustraded gallery along the north, south, and west walls supported by round, tapered columns. At the east end there is a painted and gilded altarpiece composed of stop-fluted pilasters with Ionic capitals below an arched broken pediment. Elaborate stenciling decorates the ceiling and walls, most of which survives intact. When the building was converted to a parish hall c. 1906, the pews of the nave and gallery, gallery stairs that once flanked the entrance door, and the altar were all removed. The building was subsequently enlarged by a frame addition to the west end and a smaller brick addition to the east end. Immediately north of the church and extending to the west is the church cemetery, the oldest section of which contains a number of gravestones of unusually high artistic merit, nearly all of which are inscribed on the reverse "A. Geddess, Balto." Of particular interest in the cemetery is the burial plot of the Brent-Merrick family, which includes several impressively scaled and ornamented monuments enclosed within a decorative mid-19th century wrought iron fence. Immediately southeast of the church is the site of a c. 1855 rectory. Adjacent to this is the present parish church and attached rectory, built in 1954 on the site of a 1906 church building.

Significance: St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, cemetery, and property, combine to form a uniquely important resource in a local historic context. The 1840 church is the second oldest Catholic church building in Charles County, and the only public-use building dating before the Civil War to retain original interior woodwork and other contemporary ornamentations and finishes. Among these features, the painted and gilded altarpiece and the stenciled decoration of the wall and vaulted ceiling are particularly noteworthy. The historical significance of the building and site is further enhanced by the adjacent cemetery. The largest and most intact of the county's pre-Civil War Catholic church cemeteries, it encompasses an unusually large number of monuments of high artistic quality. Many of these memorial stones bear the signature of "A. Geddess," who founded the long-active Geddess monument firm of Baltimore in 1822.




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