St. James Church
Architect: attributed to Minard Lefever
Location: 32 St. James Street
A Greek Revival church, quite possibly from one of the leading lights of the style. But Minard Lefever’s most lasting contribution to American architecture isn’t anything that stands, or ever did stand. Instead, it might be his pattern books.
You’ve probably noticed most entries so far don’t list an architect. Well, in the days before the profession was rationalized by government and professional associations like the AIA, few buildings were made according to customized plans drawn up by an architect. Doing so wouldn’t merely be considered expensive, but unnecessary, overwrought — like bringing out a bazooka to a deer hunt. Instead, for all but the most complex buildings, it would be considered enough for a builder to consult a pattern book that detailed possible floorplans and elevations, plus treatments for doorways, windows, fireplaces and the like in a wide variety of styles. A builder would then use his experience to adapt such designs to the contingencies of a site and the whims of the owner.
Lafever’s four books, three of which had already been published by 1837, did much to promote the Greek Revival: suddenly, everybody with a little scratch can have their temple to Apollo.