Historic Properties Mystic Side Church: From Grocery Store to Grand Building

(The following is a weekly feature in the Independent based on the City’s 2018 Historic Property Survey done to note the many little-known historically significant properties within the city.)

Architectural Description:

Located at the southwest corner of Main Street and Wyllis Avenue, just south of the Malden city line, the Mystic Side Congregational Church is a modest Shingle Style building designed by the prominent Boston architectural firm of Hartwell and Richardson. Sheathed in wood shingles above a mortared stone foundation, the building presents a steeply-pitched, asymmetrical gable to Main Street. Originally the extension of the front gable capped a porch with recessed entrance but at some point this was enclosed and double doors and a 6/6 window with sidelights were installed on the front wall. Other alterations include the replacement of an oval window next to the entrance with a rectangular window and the removal of an arch and panel capping the central window on the second floor of the façade. The church spire has been replaced several times. Originally it appears to have been an octagonal drum with spire; this was later replaced by an elongated steeple. The present lower cupola was installed in 2014. Fenestration on the façade includes original double-hung 8/1 and 6/1 sash, modern 6/6 sash and a three-sided bay window. On the north elevation there is a two-story polygonal tower with cap and a variety of windows including 8/8, 6/1, 9/1 and four large leaded glass windows. A small two-story addition, projects from the rear elevation.

The church is set on a lot measuring nearly a half-acre and is surrounded by lawn with parking to the north.

Historical Narrative

The Mystic Side Congregational Church was established in 1889 as a mission; it takes its name from an early designation for this section of Everett and southeastern Malden. The society was founded by members of the First Congregational Church in both Everett and Malden. Initially the congregation met in a grocery store at the corner of Main and Peck Streets (now Woodville). In 1890 this land near the city line was sold by Elisha Converse of Malden to trustees Herbert Porter and Arthur Wellman of Malden and John Ross of Everett for $3,400 (Book 1961, Page 334). Two years later construction began on a church building. By July 23, 1892 corner stakes had been placed for groundbreaking and the cornerstone was laid on September 20, 1892.

The church was dedicated on February 23, 1893. As described in the Boston Herald, the following day: “The building is one of the cosiest structures of its kind in this vicinity. It is 36 feet wide, 70 feet in length, including the Sunday school room of about 30 feet, which is connected with the church auditorium by sliding doors…In the basement is a large social hall, kitchen, pantry and toilet rooms. The church cost about $10,000”. At the time of its dedication, the membership of the congregation numbered 70 persons. The building still serves as the Mystic Side Congregational Church today.

The church was designed by the noted architectural firm of Hartwell and Richardson, which was established in 1881. Henry Walker Hartwell (1833-1919) was born in Boston and educated at Lawrence Academy in Groton. He had no formal architectural education but trained under Boston architects Joseph and C.H. Hammatt Billings starting in 1851. By 1856 he had opened his own architectural practice. In 1881 Hartwell joined with William Cummings Richardson (1854-1935) to form Hartwell and Richardson. Richardson was born in Concord, New Hampshire and studied architecture at MIT from 1873-5. The partnership lasted for almost 40 years. Richardson was primarily responsible for design while Hartwell oversaw construction. Most of their work was in the greater Boston area and included residential, commercial and institutional buildings in the Queen Anne, Shingle Style, Colonial Revival and Richardsonian Romanesque. The MACRIS database includes over 100 listings associated with Hartwell and Richardson, including eighteen churches. Most of the other churches are stone structures in the Romanesque Revival style. The Everett church is one of the more modest examples of their work.

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