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St John’s Church, Lafayette Square - National Fund For Sacred Places
2021 Cohort

St John’s Church, Lafayette Square

(Episcopal)

Washington, D.C.

St. John’s Church, in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square, has served as a physical witness to the events that have shaped our nation’s capital over the past 200 years.

St. John’s Church by White House Historical Society
St. John’s Church by White House Historical Society
2021 Cohort

St John’s Church, Lafayette Square

(Episcopal)

Washington, D.C.

St. John’s Church, in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square, has served as a physical witness to the events that have shaped our nation’s capital over the past 200 years.

After the British burned down the White House during the War of 1812, community members looked to construct an Episcopal church adjacent to the rebuilt site. Benjamin Latrobe, one of the architects of the U.S. Capitol building, designed the church in the form of a simple Greek cross in 1816. A portico and bell tower, containing a bell cast by Paul Revere’s son, were added by 1822. Known as the “Church of the Presidents,” St. John’s has welcomed every sitting president to at least one service since its opening. In June 2020, St. John’s was the backdrop to peaceful protests against police brutality, met with violence and tear gas by federal forces. St. John’s is adjacent to Black Lives Matter Plaza and near National Trust Historic Site Decatur House.

St. John’s actively serves underserved communities through its programming. The congregation supports education, feeds community members experiencing housing insecurity, and advocates for affordable housing and refugee resettlement. St. John’s is also committed to public service, leading tours and Sunday Adult Forums with nationally recognized speakers on historical and contemporary topics.

A National Fund grant of $100,000 with an equal amount in matching funds raised by the congregation will support the restoration of the bell tower. Components of this restoration include cleaning and regilding the dome, adding bird-proofing features, repainting the upper cornice, replacing copper roofs, adding sealants, and repairing stucco. Additional work will make the bell tower accessible from the interior to allow safe, routine inspections in the future. According to the congregation, the bell tower restoration reflects St. John’s “stewardship of a symbolic landmark and commitment to a just, equitable future.”

St. John’s Church by Kaye Edwards

St. John’s Church by White House Historical Society

Stories and Media Coverage

Read more about how the National Fund for Sacred Places is helping congregations around the country rehabilitate their sacred places.

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