St. Ignatius' Church
2317, Brinkley Road, Oxon Hill, Prince Georges County
The present St. Ignatius' Church, the second to stand on this site, is a frame church constructed in 1890. Although the interior and exterior wall surfaces reflect the Queen Anne and Shingle Styles, the round-headed windows, centrally placed entrance tower, and corner buttresses refer to the then longer-lived Gothic Revival style. The main exterior feature is the 80'-tall tower rising at the center of the north facade. The tower is divided into three stories, the first being the entrance porch into the nave. The second story is part of the rear gallery and the third houses the bell (cast by Henry McShane of Baltimore). The tower has a square two-pitched hipped roof surmounted by a cross. The entrance is through a round-arched entrance consisting of double doors beneath a fanlight. At the gallery level is a triple-arched window. At the highest level a double-arched window within a single-arched decorative architrave exists on each of the four faces. Between the second and third levels, a heavy cornice projects around all sides of the tower at the level of the peak of the nave roof. At the corner of the tower are small buttresses reaching midway up through the second story which are echoed on the northeast and northwest corners of the church. The surface treatment is a combination of shingle bands alternative with tongue-and-groove siding. The alternating bands of sheathing are continued on the north, east, and west sides of the church. The south side has only tongue-and-groove siding. The church is six bays in length, each with a round-arched stained-glass window. The north and south gable ends are three bays wide, with single round-arched windows in the outer bays of the north facade, flanking the tower. The south facade consists of a triple round-arched window in the center bay, and a small entrance door with a fanlight in the east bay. The church stands on a brick foundation, and a narrow chimney pierces the southeast portion of the roof slope. On the interior, St. Ignatius has a barrel-vaulted nave supported by square piers. The ribs of the vault spring from the entablatures of the piers. The flat-roofed aisles are also ribbed, with the ribs supported by the piers and by square brackets along the exterior aisle walls. The interior walls are all covered with narrow boarding. On the vault, the boarding runs longitudinally; along the aisle walls, it runs vertically to the level of the chair rail, horizontally between the windows, and vertically from the level of the springing of the window arches to the cornice. Thus, the treatment of the interior aisle walls reflects the treatment of the exterior walls. The choir, or gallery, runs across the full width of the church at the north end, and projects across the entire north, or first, bay. It is supported by the piers that carry the barrel vault. Like the walls, it is covered with vertical boarding. The altar rail is original, with turned balusters supporting a heavily carved and decorated railing. The original church building on the property was four bays long and three wide, with 12/12 sash windows with louvered shutters, and Italianate brackets in the gable eaves. This 1849-50 building was replaced in 1890 by the present structure, which has two dated corner stones, one dated 1849, and the other 1890.
The significance of St. Ignatius' Church is twofold. The church represents a style of architecture of which it is the only surviving example in the Potomac area of Prince George's County. Although the building was described at the time of its construction as being of "Romanesque" design, it has many of the elements of the Shingle and Queen Anne styles. On October 21, 1891, the day the building was consecrated by James Cardinal Gibbons, of the Baltimore archdiocese, it was conceded by the clergy to be the "prettiest little church in Southern Maryland." In addition, the church symbolizes an era in the typical development of a rural to suburban community. St. Ignatius' is the second oldest Roman Catholic Church in the southwestern part of the county. For many years, it served families living in an area bounded on the west by the Potomac River and to the east, as far as the present city of District Heights. Among its earliest members were representatives of two of Maryland's oldest Roman Catholic families, the Hills and the Brookes. The two main persons who solicited funds for the original building were ladies, Mrs. Christina Spaulding Kerby Edelen and Mrs. Mary Eugenia Surratt. A cemetery located in the churchyard has stones bearing the names of many of the county's oldest families.