Boston - Freedom Trail: Kings Chapel - Box Pews
The box pews of King's Chapel are the original pews. Each pew was owned by a family who paid fifty-four shillings a year (about $150 in today's money) for the space. They were designed with high sides to protect worshippers from winter drafts in the days before central heating. Parishioners would sit close together with a foot warmer on the floor providing heat. Each pew reflected the size and make-up of the family, who would bring in their own pillows, fabrics, and furniture for their pew. Children often faced their parents, rather than the chancel, so that parents could watch both the service and their children. The pews in the galleries were were available for those who could not afford the rent on the box pews downstairs. In 1906, the Church bought back the pews, which are now open to all. While the pews have required re-upholestering, the padding beneath is still made of horse hair.
King's Chapel, along with its adjacent burial ground is the fifth stop along the Boston Freedom Trail. Founded by Royal Governor Andros of the Providence of New England, under the rule of King James II, on June 15, 1686, it is the oldest member church of the Unitarian Universalist Association and the first Anglican church in New England. Today Kings Chapel is an independent Christian Church with a Unitarian Christian theology, an Anglican form of liturgy, and a congregational form of governance.
Its first house of worship was a small wooden meeting house at the corner of the present site at Tremont and School Streets, that was dedicated on June 30, 1689. The congregation grew and its building was in a bad state of repair by the middle of the 18th century. After difficult negotiations with Boston officials, the congregation acquired more land on the east side of its lot. The new, larger building was designed by the first American architect, Peter Harrison of Newport, in 1749 and completed in 1754.
National Register #74002045 (1974)
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