Maryland's National Register Properties

Photo credit: P. Touart, 05/2005
Makemie Memorial Presbyterian Church
Inventory No.: WO-103
Date Listed: 11/10/2008
Location: 103 W. Market Street (MD 12), Snow Hill, Worcester County
Category: Building
Period/Date of Construction: 1888-89
Architect/Builder: Architect: Isaac Pursell
Description: The Makemie Memorial Presbyterian Church, erected in 1888-89, stands on the south side of West Market Street in the center of Snow Hill, the seat of Worcester County, Maryland. The High Victorian Gothic brick church faces northwest, and a walled cemetery surrounds the building on the south and west. Built on a partially excavated foundation, the main body of the church is a cruciform planned structure enhanced by front entrance towers of differing heights. The northwest tower is three stories tall, including a belfry in the uppermost stage, whereas the southwest tower is two stories tall. Both towers are topped by octagonal broach spires which are further enhanced with metal clad pinnacles topped by fleur-de-lis inspired finials. The stretcher bond brick main block extends to the southeast with a single-story hip-roofed wing, which is extended further east by a mid-20th century flat-roofed addition that houses Sunday School rooms. Another appendage, built off the northeast side of the church tower in the early 1990s, houses a wheelchair lift. The main body of the church features a wide variety of pointed-arch window and door openings. Three of the four legs of the cruciform plan are dominated by original colored glass windows of figurative and geometric designs. The window and door openings are accented with rusticated brownstone lintels and arches. The interior retains much of its late-19th century character with an exposed hammer-beam truss roof, supported in part by two cast-iron columns. The church cemetery, enclosed by a brick wall erected during the early 20th century, includes a range of markers dating from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Significance: Makemie Memorial Presbyterian Church is significant for its architecture as a well-preserved example of High Victorian Gothic church design and representative of the work of Philadelphia architect Isaac Pursell (1853-1910). Pursell designed church buildings for a variety of Protestant denominations during the late Victorian era; churches and manses for the Presbyterian Board of Church Erection; his employment by the Snow Hill congregation probably followed a recommendation by officials in the Presbytery of Philadelphia. The majority of Pursell’s projects, which included residential, institutional, and commercial buildings, as well as churches, were located in and around Philadelphia and southern New Jersey. The Makemie Memorial Church is the only known example of his work on the Delmarva Peninsula south of Wilmington, Delaware, and one of only two projects in the state of Maryland--the other being the College Avenue Baptist Church in Annapolis (1905; demolished). Makemie Memorial Presbyterian Church is one of the finest and most elaborate examples of Victorian Gothic church design on the lower Eastern Shore. Built of brick and dressed stone shipped in from Baltimore, the roughly cruciform-shaped main block is dominated by flanking towers of unequal height enhanced with pointed-arched doors and windows. The cross-plan sanctuary is illuminated by intricately crafted colored glass windows of figurative and geometric designs. The roof is supported by a decorated hammer-beam truss roof system supported in part by cast iron columns. The original church furniture--curved pews and intricately carved altar furniture--are original to the 1888-89 construction, as well. The church retains an exceptionally complete archive; original receipts, ledgers, and daybooks document the construction process. Materials and resources were provided by a variety of businesses; supplies and workers were transported by rail and steamboat from distant sources. As a result, this church provides a rare and compelling insight into the building process during the industrial age, representing a small rural congregation that looked outside its local community for the design and construction of a new edifice. Contributing to the church property is the cemetery, which contains congregant burials dating from the mid 18th century, when the first church occupied the property. This church is the fourth structure to serve the Snow Hill Presbyterian congregation, and the third one to define this site on Market Street. With the construction of the Victorian church, the congregation was renamed Makemie Memorial to honor Presbyterianism’s early evangelist and leading light, the Reverend Francis Makemie (1685-1708).