St. Mark’s is a wonderful mixture of the old and the new. Our nave was built between 1888 and 1894. The renovated and expanded parish house was dedicated in September 2014. Read on to learn more.
The nave is our sanctuary, where services are held each Sunday, but it is also the center of our life as a community. It has large, stained glass windows and a tower on the northwest corner of the building. There are two street entrances, located on A Street SE and on Third Street SE. Another entrance, at the end of the walkway just past the A Street courtyard, is called the Courtyard Entrance; a door to the nave is located inside just to the right of this entrance.
Our nave is unique because there are no pews, allowing us to worship in the round, a way to affirm and strengthen our solidarity as a community. The pews were removed in the 1960s when needed repairs necessitated moving worship into the parish hall. The temporary configuration, with pews facing one another, led the parish to retain that approach when they returned to the nave. The pews were sold, the first generation of chairs (we are now on our third) was purchased and parish life changed forever. Today, we are able to quickly reconfigure the nave for a variety of uses, including wedding receptions, parties, theatrical productions, fundraisers by community groups, dances, and community celebrations.
Baxter Hall, St. Mark’s recently renovated parish hall, is located on the east side of the building, with the parking lot just outside its doors. From the Courtyard Entrance, turn left across the lobby to the rear hallway and you’ll see the double doors to Baxter Hall just past the staircase and elevator. Baxter Hall is named in honor of the Reverend William M. Baxter, ninth Rector of St. Mark’s, who is credited with saving the church in the 1950s.
Baxter Hall is our hospitality center on Sundays and is in high demand by both parish and external groups for meetings, seminars, theatrical rehearsals, and as a staging area for events in the nave.
Located on the second floor of the parish house, above Baxter Hall, are the parish offices. They are accessible by elevator.
Craighill Dance Studio
Located on the second floor of the parish house across from the parish offices, the dance studio is accessible by elevator.
Verna Dozier Library
The Verna Dozier Library is located in the Undercroft. Go down the indoor stairwell, across from elevator, then turn right and follow the hallway toward the exit door (from the elevator, turn left and go toward the exit door). The glass door to the Verna Dozier Library is on the left, before the steps to the exit door.
Undercroft Classrooms and Meeting Rooms
Our Undercroft (the lower level, accessible by stairs just outside Baxter Hall or by elevator) has two distinct sections. The first you come to was created during our renovation in 2013-14. There are three meeting rooms—the Elders Room, the Rectors Room, and the Penniman Room—plus the Flanders Choir Room (including the choir robing room and the choir music library) and the Cox Music Studio. The west side of the Undercroft, down the hall past the restrooms, includes the Lions’ Den (teen Sunday School), the Verna Dozier Library, the Trusheim Nursery, a series of Sunday School rooms and the Adams Room, multipurpose space used regularly for yoga classes and meetings.
The Adams Room
This large meeting room located in our Undercroft (basement) directly beneath the nave is a multipurpose space used regularly for yoga classes, meetings, and classes. If you go down the indoor stairwell, turn right (from the elevator, turn left), follow that hall past the restrooms. On your right you will see a set of double doors with windows; go through those doors and follow the hallway to a second set of double doors that open into the Adams Room at the end of the hall.
The Architecture of St. Mark’s—A Brief Q & A
Q. The building is beautiful—but what do you call this style?
A. Well, some insist that it is Neo-Romanesque (or “Richardsonian Romanesque”), the label given to the late Victorian reinterpretation of ancient Italian architecture. And it is true that the rounded interior arches, echoed by both the windows and the massive sandstone altar, support this view. On the other hand, the building has some decidedly Neo-Gothic touches, particularly in its use of stained glass. Regardless of whether it fits any label other than Victorian eclectic, the interior’s restrained elegance—with beautifully crafted details in wood, wrought iron, mosaic tile, and molded brick—set off the jewel tones of the glass artworks.
Q. Where are all your pews?
A. We took them out nearly 40 years ago to reconfigure our space so services could be held “in the round.” The pews were replaced with interlocking chairs, permitting a movable altar to be placed in the middle of the nave. Parishioners now sit facing the altar on all four sides. On rare occasions, the high altar is used for worship. One of a series of crosses, some made by parishioners, hangs above the central altar; the designs change with the liturgical season.
Q. What can you tell me about the big stained glass window?
A. The window over the baptistry dates from 1888 and is one of the oldest and largest stained glass works ever produced by the studio of Louis Comfort Tiffany. The center panel depicts “Christ Leaving the Praetorium” (i.e., the Roman governor’s headquarters) moments after Pontius Pilate washed his hands of the matter. The design is a copy of an original work by 19th century French illustrator Gustave Dore. The abstract border incorporates some Celtic-inspired designs, which Tiffany often favored.
Q. Are the other windows from Tiffany, too?
A. No. The large windows on the ground level are by a German firm, Mayer of Munich, and date between 1888 and 1931. The smaller windows in the clerestory above, which date from 1905 to 1999, include works by Mayer and several American studios. One unfilled window remains, with “temporary” glass now 115 years old.
Q. Is that a fresco painted onto the high altar?
A. No. The painting over the altar was executed by Mayer of Munich on canvas and shipped here to be affixed to the altar. Thanks to the generosity of a group of gay members known as the Lambda Lions, it was restored recently by a parishioner who is a professional art restorer.
Vision 2020—Renovating and Expanding the Parish Hall Wing
Like every healthy community, St. Mark’s is constantly evolving, as are our needs. In 2009, the Vestry realized that our aging facilities are in need of significant attention and investment. That presented us with an opportunity to consider what we want St. Mark’s to become in terms of our buildings, our programs, and our place in the broader community.
In 2010 we embarked on a journey together to determine how our space can best be renovated and expanded to meet not just our current needs, but to allow for flexibility and growth in the future. Through a comprehensive discernment process, we gathered more than 1,000 dreams from members of the community. We analyzed the state of our buildings and systems; studied the relevant zoning, legal, code, and historic preservation issues; and estimated the costs of a variety of possible projects to upgrade our facilities. We examined our relationship with the greater community, finding that numerous opportunities exist for St. Mark’s to meet more needs in the community; and we explored ways our facilities could function with less impact on, and be more respectful of, the environment.
This process led us to identify the following goals for any renovation and/or expansion plan:
- To preserve our historic property, while renewing our existing space, enhancing our mission, and providing for the future of our community.
- To implement sustainable systems throughout our facilities, demonstrating our respect for the world in which we live, and upholding our commitment to sustainability as a core value.
- To make our spaces more welcoming, accessible and available to our members, guests and the needs of our community.
- To create additional space for our programs, with the flexibility to meet currently known and unforeseen future needs, enabling us to better realize our dreams.
- To strengthen our engagement with and commitment to the community and the world around us.
- To provide our staff with functional, pleasant space to work that is in one location, easily accessible to our community and the public, safe and secure, and that integrate the staff more fully into the daily workings of the church.
We put together a terrific team of consultants, including Bonstra/Haresign Architects, Jeremy Arnold, lead architect; Project Manager Alex Berley of E&G Group; and Monarc Construction, as our general contractor. In 2011 and 2012, we worked with our consultants to design a project that would meet our needs. Despite a number of fits and starts, we eventually settled on a design, and construction began in 2013. In September 2014, the new space was dedicated at a special service by The Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Bishop of Washington.
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