Mrs. Greenleaf and St. James's: A Brief History

St. James's was founded in 1864 by two laymen (Samuel Batchelder and George Dexter), a retired clergyman, the Rev. Andrew Croswell, and his wife, Caroline Augusta Croswell. All four had been parishioners at Christ Church in nearby Harvard Square and shared a desire to start an Episcopal mission in the rough and noisy cattle market area of North Cambridge.

Mary Longfellow Greenleaf (1816-1902, pictured at right, top) was one of the new church's most faithful supporters. Her brother was the poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (who wrote, among other things, "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere"). Widow to the wealthy merchant, James Greenleaf, she was also Caroline Croswell's sister-in-law. The church's Greenleaf window (#2 on the floorplan) is an early 20th century tribute to the life and work of this generous and remarkable patron of St. James's. It was her generosity that funded both the entire original church building, called the "Chapel," including furnishings, 1870-71 (photo right, center), and the entire chancel (photo right, below) of the new church, begun in 1888 and designed by the New York architect, Henry M. Congdon.

In 1885 the parish had purchased the corner lot next to the Chapel, where the old Davenport Tavern still stood. By some irony, this was the very tavern where British soldiers stopped for a drink that fateful night of April 19, 1775, before proceeding to Lexington and Concord and the historic battle with the Minutemen. Paul Revere and his friends may have arrived in Concord ahead of the British, but part of him remains today on the site of the old Davenport Tavern. It is a church bell repaired and rebuilt by Paul Revere that graces the very corner of St. James's beneath Mrs. Greenleaf's memorial window. St. James's historical "Paul Revere Bell" rings out at the beginning of every Sunday morning's 10:30 worship service.

The chancel, including the high altar windows, were Mrs. Greenleaf's gift as a memorial to her husband. The windows arrived from London on November 4, 1889, the day before the appointed opening of the new church. However, the windows had broken so badly in transit that they were shipped to New York for repairs, and the church opened without them.

This black and white photo at right shows the windows in their context, as part of the chancel art evoking the liturgical hymn, the Te Deum; see the introduction for color images. This hymn is also echoed in the garlands of the stained glass angel windows high above each side of the choir.

Mary Longfellow Greenleaf

original church 1871-1889

choir, chancel arch, and high altar apse, 1964;
for a modern view of the church from the street

click here

Te Deum
Historical information and photos on this page taken from "1864-1964: Centennial Year, St. James's Parish, Cambridge, Massachusetts." Special thanks to John Hixson for the loan of this now-rare booklet, and to Janet Hobbs for many details about the windows' history and design.
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