A Legacy of American Architect Richard Upjohn (1802-1878), Michael’s Tower Soon to Receive New Structure

The current photo of Michael’s tower you will not be able to take for quite some time. Repairs are underway.

Michael's 'Carpenter Gothic' Tower soon to be repaired.

Michael’s ‘Carpenter Gothic’ Tower soon to be repaired.


Michael, the one-ton bell, dedicated on Michaelmas 1884, is tuned to the key of ‘F.’ The inscription on Michael reads: ” ‘Come let us worship and fall down and kneel before the Lord our Maker,’ to the Glory of God and in memory of Charles Delafield, Esq., St. Michael and All Angels Day, September 29, 1884.” The Angelus is rung Monday through Saturday at 8 o’clock in the morning, noon, and at 4:30 in the evening, calling the seminary community to prayer. Richard Upjohn, a noted church architect and grandfather of a student, Hobart Upjohn, in the class of 1887, designed the unique tower which houses Michael.


Richard Upjohn (1802-1878) was a prominent mid-nineteenth century architect, who was born in England but studied and practiced in the United States, first in Boston and the in New York City. Upjohn was one of the foremost practitioners of the Gothic Revival style, his best known work in that style being Trinity Church in New York City. In 1839, he was called to repair New York’s second Trinity Church, finished in 1790, which had become structurally unsound. He was also the founder and first president (1857-1876) of the American Institute of Architects. In 1851 Richard Upjohn formed Upjohn & Company with his son Richard Michell Upjohn (1828-1878), who worked in his father’s office from the age of 18. All Upjohn projects after 1860 were the product of a close collaboration between father and son. Richard Michell is best known as the architect of the Connecticut State Capitol.

Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ --  the Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary...

Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ — the Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary…


Among the numerous projects, chiefly residential and ecclesiastical, include Trinity Church in New York City (designed by Richard Upjohn and completed in 1846); the Connecticut State Capitol building in Hartford (designed by Richard Michell Upjohn), circa 1830-1903. Mr. Upjohn was also responsible for designs for the Boston Custom House, undated; Grace Church in Providence, R.I., circa 1845; St. Paul’s Church in Brookline, Mass., 1848-1852; St. Paul’s Church in Buffalo, N.Y., circa 1850; the Central Congregational Church in Boston, circa 1850; St. Peter’s Church in Geneva, N.Y., circa 1850s-1860s; the William Spencer House in Yellowhook, N.Y., 1853-1855; the E.B. Litchfield House in Brooklyn, N.Y., 1853-1855; Hamilton Hoppin House, Newport, R.I., 1856; Hobart College in Geneva, N.Y., 1858-1862; various structures for Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, N.Y., 1859-1863; St. James’s Church in Brooklyn, N.Y., circa 1860s-1870s; the original St. Thomas’s Church on Fifth Avenue in New York City, circa 1870 (the church was destroyed by fire in 1905 and replaced by Bertram Goodhue’s existing church in 1913).*


A familiar piece of the House is missing temporarily while repairs are made.

A familiar piece of the House is missing temporarily while repairs are made.

The nearby Church of St. John Chrysostom in Delafield, WI, was built by Upjohn in his “Carpenter Gothic” style. The bell tower on campus is most likely an extension of this style, drawing on the available resources of the area and the frontier beginnings of the Seminary.


Upjohn believed that as an architect and a man of faith it was his duty to provide Gothic designs for small parishes, and to provide them at a cost the parishes could afford. This was at a time when, despite his fame, he was still struggling to pay off his English debts and educate his large family. His reputation, his connection with Trinity, and perhaps his High Church leanings brought him numerous requests for help from small parishes. In the same year that he prepared the designs for St. Saviour’s, Maspeth, Upjohn advertised a publication to be sold by subscription, Designs for Country Churches. A copy of the prospectus, described by Phoebe Stanton in The Gothic Revival and American Church Architecture, is preserved in an archive at Duke University. For whatever reason, this project seems not to have come to fruition, but five years later, he published Upjohn’s Rural Architecture, a pattern book with extensive plans and specifications for a wooden Gothic church, chapel and rectory, intended for the use of pioneers and new parishes. He moved the High Church Anglican model into the American idiom, using his extraordinary skills to translate a medieval architecture of stone into wooden buildings suitable for the American frontier, adapted to new needs and available materials, without losing the qualities essential to the ecclesiological movement. Phoebe Stanton writes that Upjohn described his proposal as “in all essential features, a church—plain, indeed, but becoming in its plainness.”



* Portions of this article are reprinted courtesy: Columbia University Library, Archival Collections, NY and Juniper Park Civic Association, WI.



About nashotahhouse

Located in Nashotah, Wisconsin, Nashotah House Theological Seminary is the oldest institute of higher education in the state of Wisconsin. Founded in 1842 by a Missionary Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Nashotah House belongs to the Anglican tradition of worship, theology and spirituality. That is, Nashotah House traces her roots to the Church of England and locates herself within the worldwide Anglican Communion. Comprehending the fundamental disciplines of Holy Scripture, Theology, Church History, Spirituality and Pastoral Ministry, the curriculum at Nashotah House not only roots our students in the ancient wisdom of the Church, it prepares and empowers them to communicate the Gospel to the world today.