St. Paul’s, Burlington, Vermont
Exterior view of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Burlington, Vermont, by Burlington Associates, 1973. Photo: William Morgan
The Cathedral Church of St. Paul is an unsung landmark. Overlooking Lake Champlain, this restrained and handsome example of Brutalism serves Vermont Episcopalians and is the seat of their bishop.
Burlington architects Thomas Cullins and William Henderson won an international competition in 1971 to replace the original 1832 church, an early Gothic Revival work by Ammi B. Young of Boston Customs House fame. The campanile and elegantly crafted concrete of the new St. Paul’s echo ecclesiastical works by Marcel Breuer and Alvar Aalto. Yet inspiration for the cathedral arguably was Louis Kahn’s First Unitarian Church in Rochester, New York, a decade earlier.
A square plan and movable chairs accommodate flexible worship as well as concerts. White oak furniture, ceiling coffers, and slate floors provide understated presence, while nails salvaged from the burned predecessor form the altar cross. The solid chancel wall blocks out the picture-window view, allowing only oblique glimpses of the lake and mountains. But it is light — admitted through skylights and clerestories — that graces the vessel of spirituality.
Interior view of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Burlington, Vermont, by Burlington Associates, 1973. Photo: William Morgan