Filed Under Churches

Bell Street Chapel

"To God, To Truth, and to All that Enobles Humanity"

Providence’s exquisite jewel box of a French neo-classical temple, the Bell Street Chapel, was built in 1875 for art dealer and engraver James Eddy after a design by storied Providence architect William R. Walker. Eddy dedicated his church “to God, to Truth, and to all that ennobles Humanity.” Eddy was a radical progressive for the time, participating in the causes of temperance, women’s rights, and the abolition of slavery. He rejected the organized religions of his day, but could find no one to lead a congregation according to his vision. The church remained empty until after his death in 1888. The first service was Eddy’s memorial, featuring reformer and activist Anna Garlin Spencer, who organized an independent church in accord with Eddy’s thoughts and was Rhode Island’s first female ordained minister. Spencer fought against misogyny, racism, and poverty. Among her friends were history’s greatest fighters, including Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. Spencer was a groundbreaker. Today’s Unitarian Universalist congregation continues the fight for social justice with Reverend Margaret Weis at its helm.

Images

Bell Street Chapel in its Early Years This photograph from the book James Eddy, published the year after his death, shows the chapel Source: James Eddy: Born May 29th, 1806 ; Died May 18th, 1888: Biographical Sketch, Memorial Service, Selected Thoughts. J.A. & R.A. Reid, 1889. Library of Congress
James Eddy (1806-1888) This photo shows James Eddy, an artist, art dealer, abolitionist, and progressive. Source: James Eddy: Born May 29th, 1806 ; Died May 18th, 1888: Biographical Sketch, Memorial Service, Selected Thoughts. J.A. & R.A. Reid, 1889. Library of Congress.
Anna Garlin Spencer Anna Garlin Spencer (1851-1931) was a journalist, social worker, and ground-breaking lifelong advocate for equality and social justice.
The Eddy House This is the Eddy House as photographed by John Hutchins Cady. Traces of the foundation can still be seen at Bell Street Park. Source: John Hutchins Cady, Rhode Island Collection, Providence Public Library.

Location

5 Bell Street, Providence, RI 02903

Metadata

Taylor M. Polites, “Bell Street Chapel,” Rhode Tour, accessed September 29, 2022, https://rhodetour.org/items/show/159.