Churches worth seeing, VIII
St. Mary’s Church : Asheville, N.C.
(Diocese of Western North Carolina)
SINCE it is summer, we turn our attention to the mountains of North Carolina, to which those who could do have long retreated from the heat of the Piedmont.
St. Mary’s Church was built in 1914 in a cruciform plan in an English Gothic Revival style, of red brick trimmed with limestone, all above a stone foundation and below a steeply pitched, gabled roof. The windows are pointed arches with leaded glass diamond panes. Prominent local architect (and vestryman) Richard Sharp Smith designed the building and much of the interior furnishings. The rectory stands behind the church and was built in 1925, also designed by Smith. Chauncey Beadle, a pupil of Frederick Law Olmsted and gardener at George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore, developed the landscape plan. Beadle’s work was enhanced in the 1960’s by Doan Ogden, another well-known landscape architect, who designed the nearby Botanical Gardens and Kenilworth gardens in Asheville.The church and its founding vestry were adherents of the Oxford Movement, whose principles were brought to North Carolina and the mountain region by Levi Silliman Ives (II Bishop of North Carolina) in 1849. In 1913, the Revd Charles Mercer Hall, a charismatic Anglo-Catholic clergyman, came to Asheville from the Church of the Holy Cross in Kingston, N.Y., to recuperate from a respiratory ailment. Upon arrival, he joined the clergy staff of Trinity Church, where he attracted enough parishioners to found and build St. Mary’s Church for worship and a parish life in keeping with the principles of Anglo-Catholicism.
St. Mary’s is one of the earliest Anglo-Catholic congregations founded in North Carolina, and the parish has long hosted the many visitors aware of its reputation. Grace Kelly and Charlton Heston have worshiped here, and noted author Gail Godwin, a parishioner of St. Mary’s, incorporated the church and the Asheville environs in her novel, Father Melancholy’s Daughter.1
The interior of the church is rustic and dominated by the warm colors of red brick and varnished wood. It is peaceful and intimate, and the space invites the visitor toward reflection, contemplation, and prayer.
Adapted from the description provided by the National Park Service on its Asheville, N.C., travel itinerary (http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/asheville/stm.htm, accessed July 8, 2013).