By Meghan Maloney
Many who travel down Hanover Street in Boston’s historic North End, whether they be a tourist or a local, stop and look up at the bell tower that sits atop the red-bricked exterior of St. Stephen’s Church. Those that know their history, know that they are looking at a tower that holds a bell made by Boston’s most famous midnight rider – Paul Revere. Those that might not know the history soon discover, upon entering St. Stephen’s, that they have stepped into a building that is not only where Paul Revere and his father had at one time attended religious services; but is also, the last remaining church in Boston designed by famed architect, Charles Bulfinch.
Fast-forward many years beyond Bulfinch’s day, and you have a historic landmark, emblematic of all the generations of Patriots and immigrants who had, at one time or another, lived and worshiped in the North End, including Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy’s family, who had her baptized at the church in the late 1800s.
But, along with that great history comes age. Today, the bell tower is in desperate need of repair, with the wood rotting and in need of repainting with special weather-resistant paint. Father David Costello, pastor of St. Stephen’s, explained that funding for this important project has become complicated. With much of St. Stephen’s congregation made up of visiting tourists rather than a consistent, large group of parishioners, weekly donations tend to amount to less than those of other area churches. Additionally, many historical preservation foundations restrict funding from buildings they consider “religious,” making Fr. Costello’s task a daunting one. Just this week, in fact, the Supreme Court declined to hear a legal dispute from the state of New Jersey over the use of state tax money to repair churches.
Thankfully, the fundraising “thermometer” Fr. Costello has set up inside St. Stephen’s doors has been an impetus for those who visit to contribute to this worthwhile effort to preserve a part of our city’s history. A GoFundMe Page has also been set up under Fr. David Costello’s name to allow those who can’t make it to the church to donate online.
“We are blessed that St. Stephen’s Church is steeped in history and has been part of the fabric of the North End for so long,” said Costello. “It would be remiss of us not to preserve it to allow for future generations to practice their faith and appreciate the historic and architectural significance of such a beautiful house of worship.”
Costello encourages individuals and families of all faiths and backgrounds to stop by and see a part of our city’s great history. Those who want to know more about helping with the bell tower project are encouraged to call Fr. Costello at the church.