The Lancaster Street Rectory

We have no information about how housing was provided to St. Paul’s earliest rectors. Most of them seem to have rented or purchased houses in the neighborhood, although as late as 1869 J. Livingston Reese (rector from 1864 until 1891) was boarding at 67 Chapel Street, one third of a mile from the church. The first mention of plans for a rectory appears in our records in 1865, when the Sunday school donated $1,200 for purchase of the lot to the west of the church for that purpose from Miss Kate Wilson. This was an impressive amount of money, with an approximate current value of $18,000,  at a time when St. Paul’s had one of the largest Sunday Schools in the city, with almost 500 students and about 50 teachers. In 1867, funds for construction of the building were raised by a subscription and by the women of the parish.

There is some question about when the rectory was completed. Reese, Its first occupant, reported that he was first able to welcome guests there on New Year’s Day, 1870. But church historian Thomas H. C. Clemishire (whose father, John Clemishire was a carpentry contractor on the project) writes that contracts were let in June 1870. A January 1871 newspaper article says “A new rectory is already completed and occupied”, but adds information about what its dimensions and cost will be “when completed.” [Albany Evening Journal 28 Jan 1871] Perhaps it is best to say, as did Milton W. Hamilton in his 1977 history of the parish, that it “was built in 1870-71,” and that construction may have proceeded in stages.

Construction over a period of years would explain the building’s unusual design, which has been described as “post-Civil War eclectic, combining several stylistic trends of the period: French Second Empire, Venetian Gothic (arches with poly-chrome voussoirs), and maybe a bit of Italian Renaissance thrown in for good measure.”

The  rectory was “sixty feet in length by twenty-four feet in width, and three stories in height.” [Albany Evening Journal 28 Jan 1871].  The best photograph we have was probably taken about 1900. The rectory (80 Lancaster) is immediately to the right of the church. The house on the far right (82 Lancaster) was built in 1884 as the home of Anna Van Allen Jenison and her husband  E. Darwin Jenison, Vice President of the Commerce Insurance Company. Known as “the Swiss Chateau,” it was a wedding gift from Anna’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Garrett A. Van Allen, who were long-time members of St. Paul’s.

St. Paul's Church and Rectory

St. Paul’s Church and Rectory

This photograph is the only one known which shows the rectory clearly and is probably the earliest photograph we will find. Sadly, the next that I have been able to locate was also most likely the last, taken shortly before the church and rectory were demolished in October 1964 for construction of the South Mall.

St. Paul's Church and Rectory, 1963 or 1964 (photo credit: Times-Union Archive)

St. Paul’s Church and Rectory, 1963 or 1964 (photo credit: Times-Union Archive)

Much of the neighborhood was demolished by mid-1963, so this undated photo may have been taken during the winter of 1963 – 1964. The church stands out clearly in the foreground, because its reddish or buff-colored brickwork had been painted white in 1960.  The rectory still exists, but is difficult to see behind the bare trees.

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