Yes, here is your formal invitation, to the consecration of St. Paul’s new Hackett Boulevard building on June 4, 1966. As we have seen, the nave had been in use since April 7, but work on the chapel and Sunday School rooms would continue into the summer.
As we prepare to note the fiftieth anniversary of the building’s consecration, it is interesting to look back at what was being said about the new building when it was new. We don’t have records of discussions within the St. Paul’s family about the design of the new church, but we do have two slides of an architect’s model that was shown to the congregation before construction began.
We also have newspaper reports of the design, with some interesting details on how and why it was chosen.
A Knickerbocker News article from shortly before the consecration declares that “[t]he new St. Paul’s Church on Hackett Boulevard is a contemporary church that hasn’t forgotten man has a history.”
As to the general design, it quotes Father McWilliam: “We wanted a church that was contemporary but not extreme, a church that expressed the social concerns of the day”
The article continues
Architect Donald J. Stephens of Loudonville explained the building committee wanted a church that was different from the typical A-frame used in most modern churches. The result of visits to new churches throughout New York and New England was a building ‘traditional in plan and form, contemporary in structure and materials.’
Outside, the church gives the impression of slenderness and height, with a white bell tower in the forms of an abstract cross soaring skyward….
Inside, the nave is designed to focus everything on the plain, marble free-standing altar. The sawtooth construction of the side walls, patterned after the new cathedral in Coventry, England, helps create this focus. The zigzag causes the light from the narrow stained glass windows to be reflected on the gray, rough-textured bricks that make up the walls. Because of the construction, a member of the congregation facing the altar cannot see the stained glass windows, which, according to Father McWilliams, minimized distractions and keep attention focused on the altar.
The comparison to the window design to that of Coventry Cathedral is one that is often still made. What has been forgotten over the years is the building committee’s survey of new church in New York and New England. It would be interesting to know where they visited. We know of one for certain, because an April 2, 1966 Times Union article specifically mentions it.
The congregation drew inspiration from a similar project in the Church of Saint Mark in New Canaan, Conn., with adaptations executed by St. Paul’s architect, Donald J. Stephens of Loudonville.
While the exterior of St. Mark’s Church is certainly reminiscent of St. Paul’s (if a bit more elaborate), the interior is even more so, with its free-standing altar and an elaborate reredos screening the choir and organ from the rest of the nave.
Both of these articles also explain how carefully the building committee attempted to incorporate elements of the old building into the new. Prominently mentioned are the ten J. and R. Lamb windows in the narthex, the Tiffany Good Shepherd window in the sacristy and the almost complete preservation of elements in the chapel.
“Christ the Good Shepherd” was given in 1899 in memory of J. Livingston Reese, rector of St. Paul’s from 1864 until 1891. It was designed and executed by the Tiffany Studios, after a painting by Bernhard Plockhorst.