Michael O. Bourne
St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
Crystal Beach & Glebe Roads, Earleville, Cecil County
The single story rectangular stuccoed brick main block, three bays by three, rests on a partially excavated fieldstone foundation and is covered by a steeply pitched slate roof. Attached to the east gable end is a shorter single story one bay by one room rectangular block which contains the altar. A shed roof extends off the altar room's south side for the sacristy. The west gable end dominates the church structure with its four story bell tower with broach spire and patterned slate roof. The exterior surfaces of the church are uniformly covered with stucco that have been scored to imitate ashlar masonry, and door and window openings are bordered with raised red brick surrounds with a crenelated pattern, set against the stucco of the wall. The west facade tower is flanked by two lancet windows. The tower contains a Gothic-arched entrance with double doors and applied moldings. Directly above this is a stained glass window repeating the Gothic arch and crenelated surround. Above this is a pair of small rectangular windows, and above that, a Gothic-arched louvered vent covering the bell chamber. The four sides of the steeple base have small triangular shaped ventilators which smooth the transition between the square tower and octagonal steeple, which is topped by a gold cross. The north and south sides of the main block have three evenly spaced Gothic-arched windows with the same crenelated brick surrounds and stained glass windows, which were replaced in 1963. The east gable end is primarily covered with the altar room, which has a Gothic-arched opening on the north and east sides. The east end window is a large tripartite Gothic window. The south side contains the sacristy, which has a Gothic-arched door opening on its south wall. A single flue brick stove stack raises against the northeast corner of the main block. This Gothic Revival structure was built in 1870-1874 but incorporated the walls of the earlier churches of 1824 and 1735. The interior was completely renovated in the 1870s rebuilding of the church. The roof system consists of an exposed scissors truss. The front altar space is separated from the main body of the church by a large Gothic arch and open Gothic-arched arcaded balustrade. The balcony in the west end of the nave is supported by Tuscan columns with a blind arcade across the front wall. A graveyard, which corresponds to the church's long history, surrounds the structure.
The significance of St. Stephen's Church of North Sassafras Hundred in southern Cecil County is derived primarily from the architectural character of the structure. As a church remodeled in a highly ornamented but conservative interpretation of the High Victorian style, the building embodies the distinctive features of a period and type of architecture that, although popular in the United States in the 1870s and 1880s, was not commonly used in the rural regions of Maryland, particularly those sections of the state which were a substantial distance from an urban center. The important features of St. Stephen's that characterize it are a stuccoed brick structure with exaggerated brick decoration surrounding the openings and delineating the bell tower and an interior dominated by exposed scissors trussing and Gothic arch motifs. The building achieves additional significance from association with Thomas Dixon, a Baltimore architect responsible for the design. St. Stephen's is the only known documented example of Dixon ecclesiastical designs located outside of a major urban center.