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About this Property
Founded in 1848, the Mathewson Street United Methodist Church is the oldest surviving Methodist Church in Providence. Its building is non-ecclesiastical in style, which means it does not look like a typical church. Its more Greek-revival than gothic steeple. And perhaps that is one of the reasons why the church has lasted as long as it has.
The building is in great condition. We got in a few times to see a show at Outloud Theatre when they rented the fourth floor black box theatre. We used that opportunity to snoop around and take some photos. The interesting thing to us about the design is the way in which the outside exposes very little about what is inside. The second floor, two story worship space is as impressive as it is unexpected.
The Mathewson Street United Methodist Church has been the owner and steward of this building since its construction, and have been on the property previous as well. They hold worship every Sunday and conduct much outreach and support to the homeless community in Providence.
In 2020, the National Fund for Sacred Places supported a matching grant of $100,000 to help restore portions of the building and modernize them for continuing use. The grant supported upgrades to fire, safety, air circulation systems, and window repairs. The description from their announcement:
After the original church, built 1851, became structurally unsound, the congregation employed Cutting, Carleton & Cutting Architects to design its current four-story building using the multiple tenancy model. Completed in 1896, the church was designed like an office building to blend with its surroundings and to facilitate multiple uses of the building. Consequently, the church building has met the social and spiritual needs of downtown Providence for the past century through offering spaces such as a gym, reception room, and parlor over time. ¶ Today, Mathewson Street Church shares space and resources with 134 Collaborative, a community of nonprofits that host a wide range of human services activities within the historic church. 134 Collaborative serves over 2,000 individuals with free meals, a theater training program that creates operas on issues of social injustice and housing insecurity, legal services, addiction recovery meetings, and advocacy work.1
From the National Register nomination form for the Downtown Providence Historic District, prepared by William McKenzie Woodward, Principal Historic Preservation Planner, 1984
(Page 21) Mathewson Street Methodist Church (1895, 1951): Cutting, Carleton & Cutting, architects; Arland A. Dirlam, architect for 1951 alterations. 4-story, stone-sheathed, steel-frame structure with 4-bay façade with lancet windows and off-center entrance on first story; stringcourse above first story and colossal Corinthian pilasters on upper stories separating 2-story round-head windows; short segmental-arch windows in attic story; handsome Neo-Gothic interiors.
Mathewson Street Methodist Church was organized in 1848 and erected its first building on this site in 1851. That structure was replaced by the present one in 1895. No doubt the church originally served the large residential neighborhood west of Dorrance Street; unlike many other churches once in the vicinity, Mathewson Street Methodist Church has been able to survive the migration of its congregation to neighborhoods beyond its immediate area. It is one of the few churches in Providence that does not rely upon traditional ecclesiastical types for their form. By the time this structure was erected, Mathewson Street was rapidly developing as a commercial area, and surrounding land use militated against a traditional church form; consequently the church is well integrated into its commercial, early 20th-century setting. Its location near Grace Episcopal Church further contributes to generation of activity in the area during non-business hours.
“2020 Cohort: 134 Collaborative/ Mathewson Street United Methodist Church.” National Fund for Sacred Places. Captured 07 October 2023 from https://fundforsacredplaces.org/participants/mathewson-street-united-methodist-church/ ↩