Photo credit: Michael F. Dwyer , 11/1973

Property Name: St. John's Church
Date Listed: 4/8/1974
Inventory No.: PG:80-7
Location: 9801, Livingston Road, Fort Washington, Prince Georges County

Description: St. John's Church is a rectangular Flemish bond brick structure with a bell hipped roof. The west facade has a small gable-front porch with two arched openings along the flanks and an arched entranceway; it is a later addition to the structure. There are two stained glass windows flanking the porch on the main level of the facade, as well as small 2/2 sash windows at the balcony level; these two are believed to be later additions. The north side wall is four bays in width, with rectangular window openings with no arches, containing stained glass windows. The south wall is three bays wide, the central bay containing a double door. These three openings, also rectangular, have segmental relieving arches infilled with brick between the soffit of the arch and the window frame. At the east end, a stained glass round window has replaced the original rectangular opening; patchwork for the former opening shows it to have had a relieving arch like those on the south wall. A boxed cornice with bed molding replaces an earlier cornice. A 1930s photograph shows a cross surmounting the peak of the hip roof at the east end. The gable front of the entrance porch also held a cross at that time, but this was a more ornate cross botany. The roof was covered with diamond-shaped shingles until 1973, and an exterior chimney stack rose from the left of the south door. This has now been replaced with a narrow pipe stack. The interior of the church is a single large rectangular space with a balcony at the west end; the ceiling and wall plaster was replaced in 1973. At that time, exposed brick walls had nailers for furring strips set into the brick at points about one third to two thirds the distance from the floor to the wall plate. The openings have wooden lintels (except where they have been replaced by thinner metal strips over two windows on the north facade). Three large tie beams, mortised into the wall plates, divide the space into four bays; the beams were once plastered, although more recently they were boxed, and are now exposed. The balcony at the west end is supported by tie beams and posts. A beam across the west wall supports the balcony's floor joists, which extend across the beam and are also mortised into the west wall. Another beam supports the east end of the balcony; it is mortised into the side walls and is also supported by posts. The floor joists of the balcony are exposed and beaded on both edges. The balustrade consists of stiles with raised panels. The present balcony replaces an earlier one that projected farther into the room at a slightly higher level; mortises for the tie beam and floor joists for this earlier balcony are visible in the brickwork. Part of the floor also appears to have been lowered. The roof framing employs a principal and common rafter system, with the three principal rafters positioned over the tie beams and five common rafters between the principals. The supporting members for the barrel vault spring from inside the wall plate. They are suspended from the collars at three points by rough-cut boards nailed onto both the collars and the arches. There is one arch for each principal and common rafter. On the end walls, where the vault angles inward, furring strips are nailed directly onto the rafters.

Significance: St. John's Church, Broadcreek, is an important mid-18th century ecclesiastical structure. The barrel vaulted ceiling with its intricate support system and the bell hipped roof comprise two of the elements which give this church architectural distinction. The plain, box-like exterior with the southern entrance, gives the structure a domestic appearance indicative of the Low Church religious attitudes of the Age of Enlightenment. The addition of a porch formalizing the west entrance and the permanent closing of the south door predictably occurred in the 19th century concurrently with the Gothic Revival and with increased religiosity. The stained glass windows provide another instance of physical changes to conform with current ecclesiastical attitudes. The present restoration reflects not a change in religious attitudes but rather the growing public interest in the preservation of 18th century "colonial" structures. The present structure is fourth building on the same site. The vestry records contain specifications for each of the churches which enables the precise dating of the extant St. John's to 1767-1768. This is the oldest (1695) church site in Prince George's County. The church is also associated with the locally prominent Addison family. Walter Dulany Addison, rector of St. John's after the Revolution, was the first priest ordained in America by Thomas John Claggett, the first Episcopal bishop consecrated in the United States.




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