Baptist gingerbread

Scotch Plains Baptist Church

This is the Scotch Plains Baptist Church [website], built in 1870. Baptists have laid claim to this plot for way longer than that, though; it’s surrounded by a Revolutionary-War era cemetery, known as God’s Little Acre, with markers as old as 1742. (The headstones are mostly made of brown sandstone quarried from the local Watchung Mountains.)

Scotch Plains Baptist Church: Cemetery (God's Little Acre)

The Baptists had to rebuild twice; the first time, around 1816, the church was burned to the ground (during which time, they used what is now sort-of the YMCA), and the second time… I have no idea, but I’m guessing it was the same thing.

Scotch Plains Baptist Church, c. 1900?

For architecture geeks, the original structure is “made of pressed brick with Ohio stone and white brick trimmings.”

But what do I know? It’s pretty, that’s what I know.

…I’d really love to redesign their website for them, though.



Bousquet, R. and Bousquet, S. (1995). Images of America: Scotch Plains and Fanwood. Arcadia Publishing: Dover, NH. ISBN 0738563188.


8 Responses to “Baptist gingerbread”

  1. I love all the gingerbread architectural details! Lovely church photo!

  2. Scotch Plains? Wow. I have an old photo of my grandfather as a child from there at the turn of the century. It was a vacation spot, or something.

    Great detail: “(The headstones are mostly made of brown sandstone quarried from the local Watchung Mountains.)” Let’s see one in another post!

    Interesting great detail (but leaves one desiring more): “For architecture geeks, the original structure is “made of pressed brick with Ohio stone and white brick trimmings.”” Duh. So there’s three materials on the walling inventory: 1) Pressed bricks. Probably the red Philadelphia bricks, composed of an elegant iron-rich clay that have a thick fire-skin preferred in the 1870s for its easily cleanable nature (there was so much soot back then—so it was like the Teflon of brick walling!) 2) White brick trimming. This brickwork appears to have been laid flush with the red brick walling creating vivid dichromatic diaper patterns (which along with the use of stone) advocated by such architectural designers as John Ruskin and later William Butterfield. Although Gingerbread Gothic is the better term for this particular structure, Ruskinian Gothic wouldn’t be far off the mark for a structure as magnificent as this. 3) “Ohio stone” Why Ohio? Probably an Ohio limestone be used in conjunction with the bricks but Ohio was famous for its sandstone and that was often mixed in to create patterns on American Victorian architecture (in the UK during this period Bath stone–which is an oolitic limestone but appears like a sandstone–was commonly used for such a purpose). Has any of it decayed? But why Ohio stone? What is New Jersey’s connection with Ohio that they would use their stone over local stone, or New Hampshire stone, or Vermont stone, Pennsylvania stone, or upstate New York stone? Here’s an inkling: Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, which in 1870 was not yet merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad, and still had no connection to any part of New York and most parts of Pennsylvania. But dang it, they did have Ohio and New Jersey! What other rail lines passed through New Jersey at this time? I dunno, Pennsylvania Railroad for sure. New York Central? No, don’t think so. Western Maryland? Maybe. But which company had a stop in Scotch Plains at the time? Any? Probably the B&O, that’s who. Question: Could stone be transported from Ohio on another railroad line and then be transported to a competitor line to arrive in Scotch Plains? Yes, but it would cost more, which would dull the appeal of whatever the Ohio stone originally possessed. Alternative theories on selection of Ohio stone: someone on the Baptist congregation’s building committee was from there and had a connection, just had a connection, or the stone was used for a nearby structure and highly praised as worth the effort.

    Love Gingerbread detailing, especially on this structure’s projecting eaves with the lacey bracketed-out gable apex gingerbread forming that pointed-arched crucks with pendant. It’s very in the style of the Picturesque and Arts & Crafts Movement, both begun in the UK, but I’ve wondered where the original inspiration for such forms comes from? In northeastern France, around the Champagne region and the areas closer to Germany where there is less stone for building material and more timber, French medieval structures were half-timbered (like similar areas in that part of Europe) and had similar latice-work at the gable apex. Maybe that’s German influenced? Anyone know?

  3. Also of interest nearby is the 18th century parsonage, listed on the National Register (,_New_Jersey%29)


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