Sam Burnham, Curator
I pray I will always live in places where spires dominate the skyline"
With that tweet began several conversations that would lead to this article. The idea of finding cities and towns where spires and other beautiful vertical architectural features dominate the skyline took off. After some chats with friends, we came up with a few locations.
So much American history is tied to Williamsburg, Virginia. The Brewron Parish Church was the center of town life. The church was the place of worship for Virginia Burgesses, the Governor, and other colonial and state officials. Compulsory church attendance during British rule made the church more than an option for residents. That center is symbolized by the spire that rises over Duke of Gloucester Street. The spire can be seen from much of town and overlooks the town green where the militia is often reviewed by military leaders such as Marquis de Lafayette.
Closer to home, another seat of power kept the locals looking up. Milledgeville served as the state capital of Georgia from 1807 to 1868 (and still should but that’s another story.) Here we find the Old Capitol, one of the first example of gothic architecture in a public building in America. With its main tower, it’s battlements, even its chimneys, rising above compelling the glances of passersby to rise to admire the architectural fixtures.
The Presbyterian Church still stands at the end of the same block as the Old Capitol. During the occupation of November, 1864, Union soldiers poured honey in the church’s organ pipes, completely ruining the instrument. But eventually the organ was replaced and the music plays to this day.
Among the aligned squares of Savannah you’ll find several historic churches. Notably, the twin spires of The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist tower over the town. With a historic district that mostly sports a canopy of live oaks for a skyline, Savannah lacks the type of buildings that would obscure the massive white spires.
Charleston is probably the most beautiful cities in America. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a city that can rival it. “The Holy City” got its nickname from the many churches on its peninsula. The city’s commitment to its beauty has led to regulations that leave spires towering over all the other structures. The spires remain recognizable even when viewed from out at Ft. Sumter at the mouth of the harbor. Anyone familiar with the town would instantly recognize the skyline at first glance.
While a skyscraper tends to get people looking up, the scale and the modern materials and designs don’t project the beauty of the structures and cities I’ve listed here. When confronted with the claim that spires do not dominate the skylines of “cities of any size” I just want to say, that’s the point of my prayer at the opening of this article. These cities and towns are big enough for anything I care to do. There are many more that fit the description. I plan to take my stand in these places. That’s my personal preference and I don’t claim that it must be universal.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire