Located downtown Worcester, just steps away from Union Station, is one of the oldest surviving historic churches in the city. On the corner of Summer and Bridge Street is Worcester’s Mission Chapel, built by Ichabod Washburn in 1854. This building is one of the city’s only surviving examples of Romanesque Architecture. The building consists of a main gable structure with an intersection gable on the rear which is typical of church design. The exterior shell of the building is brick with beautiful ornamentation, corbeling, large arched windows along with the front facade retaining its original masonry sign that says “Mission Chapel”. Each side has two shed style dormers which appear to let light into the upper stories. With its significant style and iconic image adding character to the street front, it’s no wonder the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The chapel was originally built for the Evangelical City Missionary Society which used the building to cater towards Worcester’s poor community. This nondenominational church gave Worcester’s worker and immigrant community a place where they could gather and worship. It also served as a location for local missionaries to carry out their service to the poor. At points during the 20th century the building was rented commercially but for the past twenty five years the building has sat vacant, deteriorating and even being consumed by ivy growing up its walls.
Currently the building has been undergoing a renovation and is being turned into housing, which the city is in dire need of. The building is being proposed as seven market rate apartments consisting of one bedrooms, two bedrooms and even a massive three bedroom apartment. The development is known as “Mission on Summer” and is a great example of a transit oriented site being that it is so close to public transportation. The building went through a change of use and an extensive rehabilitation. The exterior brickwork appears to have been repointed, cleaned and restored and historic replica windows have been installed to match what was there during the period of significance. The interior of the apartments feature modern living with touches of historic fabric such as some refinished original wood floors, along with original window openings.
Many including myself have walked by this building for years and wondered what it was being used for and what it looked like behind its rusted out metal front doors. Even in its abandoned day it was always a beautiful gem that was waiting to breathe new life again. Thanks to the development team and all its contributors, Mission Chapel can now serve a new purpose in Worcester with something the city so desperately needs – more housing.
Image 1-6: Image taken by Peter Fauci