Old West Church

The Old West Church at 131 Cambridge Street, is a historic church located in the West End of Boston, built in 1806 to designs by architect Asher Benjamin. It was here that the phrase "no taxation without representation" was first coined.

The first church on this site was built in 1737 as a wood-frame building, and was occupied as a barracks by British troops during their occupation of the city prior to the American Revolution. The British razed this church in 1775 when they suspected that American Colonials were signaling to Cambridge from its steeple.

Today's Old West Church is thus the second church on the site. As in the architect's earlier Charles Street Meeting House (1804), its 3 1â2-story brick entry tower is crowned with a cupola; the whole tower projects outward somewhat from the church hall behind. Four shallow brick pilasters, each two stories high and trimmed with white wood, separate the three entry doors. Each door is echoed with window above it. The tower's third story is outfitted with pairs of Doric pilasters. On the final half-story beneath the cupola are clocks on each face of the tower, each adorned with a light swag. On the back wall, the original central pulpit window has been filled in with brickwork.

Old West's preaching played a major role in American history. Jonathan Mayhew, the church's second Congregational pastor, coined the phrase, "no taxation without representation" in a sermon in Old West. His preaching was theologically radical as well, and is held by some Unitarians to have predated William Ellery Channing in his exposition of anti-trinitarian views. By the early 19th century, the resultant Unitarianism had converted 9 of Bostonâs original 13 orthodox Congregational churches.

The church was originally and for many years Congregational, briefly a branch of the Boston Public Library (1894â1896), and has been owned by the Methodist Church since 1964.


 

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