First Parish of Watertown

35 Church Street
Watertown, Mass.

Year Built: 1889

Built in 1889. Plans are on file at the Massachusetts Archives.

This 1.5 story building is built in the High Victorian Gothic style and to harmonize with the now-demolished 7th Meeting House also on the site. Brigham donated this design to this, his home parish. Masterfully composed, the building maintains its balance, despite asymmetrical features, by the imposing roof which sweeps down on a one-story tower, entry portico and and transverse gable on the north and apse-like rounded bay on the west.

The building was intended to house Sunday School functions and group meetings, but within a few years, its suitability for social functions and meetings led it to be money-making building for the church. When the 7th Meeting House was demolished in 1975 to make way for a drive-up bank, this building became the 8th Meeting House, which was very suitable.

Brigham may have been inspired by the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford in designing this building, especially the first draft version of this building with the single cupola. Both have a horseshoe plan, curved on one end, straight at the other, with a cupola rising from the apex of the conical portion of the roof. The Sheldonian was designed by Christopher Wren in 1663 and was his first design. It has a number of awkward aspects that reflect his inexperience. The Brigham proportions are very different, and in many ways more successful then that of Wren, but the basic typology is quite the same. Brigham may well have been aware of it.

Brigham added an addition in 1895 in order for the building to house an organ.


• Elliott, Clark A., An Historical Sketch of the Eighth Meeting House, 1975.

• "Brigham & Spofford," Illustrated Boston, Metropolis of New England, American Publishing and Engraving, New York, New York, 1889, p. 196 ("School and Unitarian Chapel, Watertown, Mass.").

• Massachusetts Cultural Resources Information System, Massachusetts Historical Commission, Inventory No. WAT.105 (Unitarian Parish House, 1889, Charles Brigham, architect).



ca. 1905 with original entranceway and roof cresting

Parish House next to 7th Meeting House with which it was intended to harmonize. original entranceway and cresting present.

2007, rear

Detail of Stained Glass, 2009

Detail of Stained Glass, 2009

Detail of Stained Glass, 2009. The stained glass on the left is newer and not Brigham-designed.

Detail of Stained Glass, 2009

Fireplace detail, 2009



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