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White on White: Churches of Rural New England

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Interior of Old First Church, Bennington, VT.

Image courtesy Steve Rosenthal.

BSA Space presents White on White: Churches of Rural New England, an exhibition of 40 images representing early churches of the 18th and 19th centuries by architectural photographer Steve Rosenthal from Historic New England’s collection.

These remarkable small-town, white structures were erected by local builders and joiners, and occasionally by itinerant master carpenters. There were no trained architects or even schools of architecture in America at the time. Their inspiration came from traditional designs and from pattern books. In his photographs, Rosenthal traces the evolution of church styles from the early meetinghouse through the changing patterns of Greek and Gothic revivals.

Rosenthal, a well-known architectural photographer who trained as an architect, has traveled throughout the Northeast capturing what remains of these architectural gems. He began photographing New England churches in the mid-1960s. The photographs on display are a personal selection taken over the succeeding decades, including images of evocative survivors in the New England landscape.

Steve Rosenthal’s photographic archive is a tremendous addition to Historic New England’s collection, expanding its depth and breadth in countless ways,” says Lorna Condon, Historic New England’s senior curator.

Several of these churches were restored by their congregations to their original appearance long before the preservation movement took hold in this country. Many others are now threatened by shrinking congregations and high maintenance costs. Some have been damaged by insensitive additions or inappropriate materials. Others have been decommissioned and converted to other uses.

The exhibition is organized by Historic New England.

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