About 150 people celebrated the Church of the Covenant’s designation as a national historic landmark on Sunday with a reception and a potluck of vegetarian appetizers, the church’s pastor said.
The Newbury Street church, built between 1865 and 1867, is best known for its 42 stained-glass windows created by artist and designer Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1894. The collection is the largest intact Tiffany ecclesiastical design still in its original location in the country, according to the National Park Service, which granted the landmark designation.
“This is a landmark, a really unique place that we are simply stewards of, holding on to it for future generations,” said the Rev. Rob Mark, who has been church’s pastor for a year.
The designation makes the church eligible for more grants to preserve and protect its building.
In 2011, a burglar shattered one of the Tiffany windows, a large portrait of the disciple Dorcas. Restoring the intricate layered glass cost $65,000 and added another item to the church’s 20-year construction master plan. Repairing the window was likened to assembling a jigsaw puzzle, because it was a painstaking and time-consuming process to replicate the Tiffany style.
Charlene James, a church member, led the three-year application process for the historical designation with help from Lynn Smiledge, a preservation planner at Menders, Torrey & Spencer Inc., an architecture firm in the North End. The final application was 47 pages long, Mark said.
“It was really a thesis,” he said. “They really wanted to spread the message of this treasure beyond our community.”
The church will note the designation, officially granted in October, on a 3-foot square bronze plaque, which arrived Sunday morning and will be mounted outside the church soon, Mark said.
Because heating and maintaining the Church of the Covenant is expensive and difficult during the winter, the church is often locked during the week, Mark said. Open sanctuary hours, when tourists, art lovers, and passers-by can come in midweek, are scheduled to resume from late April to October.
“That really makes us happy, that we are able to open the door to the larger community,” he said.