I have a soft spot for small churches – those on prominent corners in small towns, or rural churches, tucked down a country road, often adjacent to a cemetery. Both types could be considered endangered – the churches in town replaced by larger centers of worship (often more community center or gym than church), flanked on all sides by surface parking lots, and the small country church left to minister to the landscape and passing critters, as the congregation fades. Stylistically, these buildings encompass a range of influences and building methods and materials, but the Trenton United Methodist Church might be the first I’ve encountered that bristles with bartizans.
The frame, front gable church has a common form, but the central bell tower is a study in unexpected architectural delight. The very top of the tower is common enough, with a polygonal spire clad in asphalt shingles, but radiating out from each of the four corners at the base of the spire are these cylindrical bartizans, which is a “small turret projecting from the top of a tower or parapet.” Each end of the baritzan (what a fabulous word!) is conical shaped, with the tops crowned with a triumphant finial like the main central spire. These elements transform the overall simple form of the church into an eccentric, modern looking creature that not only looks to the heavens for its members, but appears able to fly off into distant heights itself.
Sadly, I know absolutely nothing about the reason for the design of the church, other than it was built in 1887-1888 under the direction of a Mr. Ivy Andrews. Had a church member or Mr. Andrews himself been inspired by a building sporting similar exuberant elements? The nature of vernacular architecture suggests that is the case, but whatever the story behind this not-so-typical small town church – its bartizans are marvelous, and I now have a new word to bandy about, which pleases me no end.