Paul Baker Touart
St. Paul's Methodist Episcopal Church
Signpost Road & MD 413, Westover, Somerset County
St. Paul's Methodist Episcopal Church is a T-shaped frame church building erected around 1883. The church reflects the influence of mail-order plans promulgated in the late 19th century by the Methodist Church Board of Church Extension. The building rests on a high brick pier foundation and is sheathed in wood weatherboards. The steeply pitched gable roofs are clad with asphalt shingles. A two-story entrance and bell tower is located in the southeast reentrant corner. The south elevation is asymmetrical, with a gable-front facade balanced with the two-story tower. The south gable is marked by a pair of narrow colored glass windows framed by a shallow pointed arch surround. The window lintel is embellished with an applied clover-leaf decoration. Fixed above the two rectangular windows is a round light of pie-shaped colored glass panes. The eave is extended and the soffit is sloped. An interior single-flue brick stove chimney rises in the southeast corner of the south wall. The south face of the tower is dominated by a double-door entrance topped by a pointed arch, colored glass transom. An arched cornice trims the base of the tower, repeating the pointed arch motif. The tower base curves slightly inward as it rises toward the open belfry. The belfry is distinguished by a turned baluster handrail and sawn corner brackets. The steeply pitched pyramidal tower roof has a flared eave and a metal cap. The building retains a high degree of integrity among 19th century churches in the area. On the interior, an altar and choir platform is located in the west end of the large T-shaped sanctuary. Walls are finished in plaster above beaded-board wainscoting; remnants of original stenciled decoration survive.
St. Paul's M. E. Church is significant as an example of a church building whose design was derived from the Catalogue of Architectural Plans for Churches and Parsonages, which was printed in a series of annual editions during the late 19th century and distributed nationwide by the Board of Church Extension of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Architect Benjamin D. Price of Philadelphia prepared the plans under the auspices of the Board of Church Extension. These plans depicted frame or masonry church buildings in various sizes, with estimated construction costs ranging from $300 to $20,000. The catalogue also offered designs for parsonages, and included advertisements for roofing, hardware, varnish, furnaces, movable partitions, church bells, stained glass windows, and organs. Church plans were sold by mail at prices of $3.50 to $75.00. The Board of Church Extension's purpose in making such plans available at nominal cost was to enable congregations throughout the country, whatever their means, to construct attractive, convenient, and economical houses of worship. St. Paul's M. E. Church, with its T-plan and two-story entrance and bell tower, corresponds to Church Plan No. 19A illustrated in this publication. The builders of St. Paul's Church made only minor changes to the published plan. Very few 19th century churches in Somerset County have identifiable design sources.