Author Archives: Paul Nance

Centennial of the Harry J. Van Allen Tablet

Harry Van Allen Memorial Plaque

It was one hundred years today that the brass tablet honoring the ministry of Harry John Van Allen, first deaf priest in the Diocese of Albany, was installed near the baptistery of St. Paul’s Lancaster Street building. The service that Sunday afternoon featured a sermon by our rector, Roelif Hasbrouck Brooks, an address by Oliver Allen Betts, principal of the New York School for the Deaf in Rome, and a musical program by St. Paul’s choir. Mr. Betts interpreted the service and the music for the many deaf persons who attended. The tablet was unveiled by Harry’s daughter, Mary Oliver Van Allen. The tablet was originally paired with a bas relief of Harry, which, unfortunately, we no longer have.[i]

In his sermon, Dr. Brooks “upheld Dr. Van Allen’s life as an example for all persons.” I’m pleased that the tablet is still prominently displayed near the chapel door, still reminding us of Harry Van Allen’s life of service.

Harry Van Allen

As an aside, I’d like to expand on a point made In a previous post in which I told something of Harry Van Allen’s impressive record as missionary to the deaf in the dioceses of Albany and Central New York. I mentioned briefly that Bishop William Croswell Doane had initially been reluctant to accept Van Allen as a candidate for holy orders. This is a controversy we know about only thanks to two articles in The Silent Worker, a publication of the New Jersey School for Deaf-Mutes. The first, from October 1895, reports:

We are informed that Mr. Van Allen, formerly an instructor in the Pennsylvania Institution, having studied for the ministry, applied some time ago to the Protestant Episcopal Bishop of Albany, for ordination. The Bishop thought that it would be against the rules of the church to ordain to the ministry a man who is deaf, and he expressed his intention to bring the question up before the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Minneapolis.

We have followed the reports of the Convention, so far as published up to our going to press, but have seen not notice of such action.

There was, at last date, a proposed canon on ordination in committee, but the text was not given in the reports.

The question was settled in favor of the deaf, so far as the diocese of Pennsylvania is concerned, some twelve years ago, we think, when the late Henry Winter Syle presented his learned and well-reasoned argument in support of his own application to be ordained by Bishop Stevens.”[ii]

followed by this update two months later:

We learn that Bishop Doane of the Diocese of Albany has, after careful investigation, changed his opinion that a deaf man cannot properly be admitted to the ministry, and has decided to ordain Mr. Henry (sic) Van Allen. We are very glad to hear this, as Mr. Van Allen will, we are sure from our knowledge of him, be a useful and acceptable minister to the deaf.

The Bishop’s willingness to change a conviction formed on insufficient consideration does him honor.[iii]

William Croswell Doane, Bishop of Albany (credit: Library of Congress)

Bishop Doane’s own description of Harry’s ordination to the diaconate mentions the question of the “fitness” of ordaining a deaf person, and concludes with an aside that may explain his reluctance:

Friday, December 16th [1898], in the Cathedral, I ordained the Rev. Harry Van Allen to the diaconate. Dr. Silliman presented him and Dr. Pendleton preached the sermon. The Rev. Dr. Chamberlain interpreted the service, being one of the three clergymen devoted to the deaf-mute work. There were present beside, the Rev. Canon Fulcher, the Rev. Dr. Sill, and Messrs. J. N. Marvin, Paul Birdsall and Hegeman. Dr. Pendleton’s sermon added greatly to the interest of the service, both in its vindication of the fitness of ordaining a deaf-mute to the sacred ministry, nd in its statement of the work that has been already accomplished among them.

While I have no question that such an ordination is perfectly justified, I felt bound to instruct the deacon, who is able somewhat to use articulate speech, always to repeat the words in the administration of Holy Baptism with his lips, in addition to saying them in the sign language.[iv]

Harry Van Allen (courtesy Gallaudet University Archives)

It appears, then, that Bishop Doane was not in agreement with those bishops who, believing “that impairment of one of the senses was an impediment to ordination,” had opposed the 1876 ordination of Henry Winter Syle.[v] Rather, Doane, was concerned that the words of a sacrament (for a deacon, baptism) be spoken aloud. Because Harry Van Allen had become deaf at age 9, he spoke intelligibly, and was able to comply with this requirement.

[i] “Bronze Tablet Erected in St. Paul’s Church to Memory of Dr. Van Allen,” Albany Knickerbocker Press 14 Jun 1920.

[ii] The Silent Worker, volume 8, number 2 (October 1895), 9.

[iii] The Silent Worker, volume 8, number 4 (December 1895), 8.

[iv] “The Bishop’s Address,” Journal of the Proceedings of the Thirty-first Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Albany (Albany: Weed-Parsons Printing, 1899), 45.

[v] Episcopal Church, Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (New York: Church Pub. Inc., 2010), 542.

Memorial Day 2020

The brass plaque in St. Paul’s ambulatory lists the fifteen men from our congregation who gave their lives in military service during World War II. In past posts, I’ve been able to tell you something of two of them: Donald Shore Candlyn and Dirk Roor. Today, thanks to the Memory Books compiled by Grace McKinlay Kennedy, I can say something about two of the others.

Edgar MacLachlan Harding

Edgar MacLachlan Harding

Edgar M. Harding was born November 20, 1920 in Westchester County, New York, the son of Harry and Nellie Harding. He graduated from Milne High School in Albany in 1938, and enlisted in the New York National Guard in October 1940.

Milne High School Yearbook 1938

Harding’s tank battalion took part in the Luxembourg campaign, and he received a battlefield promotion to first lieutenant during the Normandy invasion. He was declared missing in action in November 1944, and his parents were notified of his death three months later. The snapshot (from Mrs. Kennedy’s scrapbook) is labeled “Seattle, Wash. 1943.”

William Richard Marvin

William Richard Marvin

William Richard Marvin, was born August 11, 1923 in Albany, the son of Harry Marvin and Margaret Fix Marvin. As an aviation radioman, Marvin flew 42 combat missions and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and New York’s Conspicuous Service Medal.

According to the citation for the Distinguished Flying Cross, it was awarded:

[f]or distinguishing himself by heroism and extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as radioman gunner of a dive bomber on a strike against the Japanese Battle Fleet at sea on 20 Jun 1944. Knowing that the flight was at extreme range which would probably end with a night water landing and that the attack was against the main enemy fleet, he showed great determination and confidence to the pilot. His devotion to duty under these trying circumstances was particularly outstanding. His conduct throughout the operation was in keeping with the highest traditions of the naval service.

After the war, in June 1946, Bill Marvin reenlisted. Two months later, while serving as a radar instructor on Naval Air Station Oceana, he was struck by lightning as he walked from his plane to the hangar. At a memorial service in September of that year, St. Paul’s rector George A. Taylor delivered a eulogy titled “Bill Marvin, a Fighter of Faith.”

 

 

Julia James Ridgway, Proprietess and Licensed Plumber

It’s Women’s History Month and I’ve been reading Susan Ingalls Lewis’s book on female proprietors in Albany between 1830 and 1885. We think of nineteenth century business as an entirely male affair. Unexceptional Women[i] shows us otherwise: many women throughout the country operated businesses in that period.

In fact, businesswomen abounded in the nineteenth-century United States. Rather than exceptional pioneers, these women were unexceptional contributors to their family economies and local communities. Neither notorious nor particularly notable, the vast majority were home-based micro-entrepreneurs who faced many of the challenges that today’s working women assume are unique to the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.[ii]

Much of the book details the experiences of women seamstresses and milliners, and of others operating small shops in Albany. But Lewis devotes a chapter to female entrepreneurs, exceptional women who took risks to expand their businesses. Once of her examples in this chapter is Julia Ridgway, whom she describes as “a woman of exceptional drive and ambition.”[iii] Julia, you won’t be surprised to learn, was a communicant of St. Paul’s Church, and matriarch of a family with a deep connection to the parish.

Julia James was born in Manchester England about 1819. She married Frederick W. Ridgway, and by the early 1840s, the couple had emigrated, and they were living in New York City. Frederick and his brother Jonathan were the “& sons” of “J. Ridgway & Sons,” a plumbing firm in lower Manhattan that seems to have begun work there in connection with supplying water from the new Croton Aqueduct. By 1843 the sons had established a plumbing shop in Albany. Jonathan soon left Albany for Boston, but Frederick continued the business here, and prospered.[iv]

In 1851, F.W. Ridgway died suddenly at the age of 34. His young widow, the mother of two children under the age of 10, initially tried to sell the business[v]. But within a year she had decided to carry the business on by herself. In 1852 Julia advertised that as “proprietress and licensed plumber to the Albany Water Works” she would continue her late husband’s business, and boasted that the New York State Plumbing Establishment “is one of the largest in the State, and is well known throughout the country as one of the leading establishments in the Plumbing business.”[vi]

Albany Evening Journal 1852_04_08 page 1

Albany Evening Journal 08 Apr 1852

An advertisement in the 1853 city directory gives more detail on the scope of Mrs. Ridgway’s business two years after her husband’s death, promising “[o]rders executed in any part of the United States by competent workmen.” She also lists a wide variety of household and industrial equipment for sale. An illustration of a household water closet, with toilet, sink and bath, is prominently displayed.[vii]

Munsell's Directory Albany 1853 page 445

Munsell’s Albany Directory And City Registry for 1853, page 445

Julia Ridgway did not merely keep the business going. She expanded and innovated, so that by 1865 the business was valued at triple the figure at her husband’s death a dozen years earlier. A Dun Mercantile Agency credit examiner in 1865 reported that Ridgway was “doing the best bus[iness] of any firm or man in the line in Albany,” and, he added, “clearly making money.”[viii]

I’ve been unable to find a photograph of Mrs. Ridgway. As you picture her, please don’t think of Josephine the Plumber in those 1970s Comet Cleanser advertisements. I doubt that Julia Ridgway ever donned a pair of coveralls and climbed under a sink. She was the business brains of the operation, providing capital, doing the accounting, and managing the business, but leaving the plumbing to her employees.[ix]

Part of Julia Ridgway’s success may have been due her relationships with her partners. For the first years, she relied on her husband’s foreman, Herman Henry Russ, who was also a St. Paul’s communicant.[x] As the business grew, she took on Russ and Edmond Nesbitt as partners, organizing as Ridgway & Co. When Nesbitt left the firm in 1871[xi], she reorganized the business again, as Ridgway & Russ. The business continued under that name until 1898, when her son Frederick W. Ridgway (who had been managing the firm since 1871) and Russ formed separate firms.[xii]

Grace Church from flickr group v001

Grace Church, Albany (credit: Albany Group Archive)

Like Elizabeth Maria Starr Hawley (about whom I wrote several years ago), Julia Ridgway was the head of a family that included several generations of active parishioners at St. Paul’s. Julia and her daughter Mary Elizabeth became communicants in 1868, transferring from Grace Church[xiii]. Mary Elizabeth married Charles Carmichael Gould at St. Paul’s in 1876.

Frederick W. Ridgway

Frederick W. Ridgway

Julia’s son Frederick W. Ridgway (1849 – 1915) was confirmed at St. Paul’s in 1867. He was a parishioner for the rest of his life and a vestryman from 1901 until his death. Three of this second F.W. Ridgway’s children were closely associated with the parish. Dorothy White Ridgway (1891 – 1979) married our organist, T. Frederick H. Candlyn and was an active member until the couple left Albany in 1943. And I’ve already written about his elder daughter Elsa Ridgway (1884 – 1956), the long-time director of girls’ activities at the Trinity Institution, and about his son Frederick W. Ridgway Jr. (1896 — 1916), an active volunteer with our Sunday School.

[i] Susan Ingalls Lewis, Unexceptional Women: Female Proprietors in Mid-Nineteenth Century Albany, New York, 1830—1885 (Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2009).

[ii] Lewis, 2.

[iii] Lewis, 131.

[iv] Amasa J. Parker (ed.), Landmarks of Albany County New York (Syracuse: D. Mason & Co, 1897), 142.

[v] “To Plumbers,” Albany Evening Journal, 31 May 1851, 3.

[vi] “New York State Plumbing Establishment,” Albany Evening Journal 30 Mar 1852, 3.

[vii] Munsell’s Albany Directory and City Registry for 1853 – 1854 (Albany: J. Munsell, 1853), 445.

[viii] Lewis, 131-133.

[ix] Lewis, 133.

[x] “Herman Henry Russ,” The Plumber’s Trade Journal Steam and Hot Water Fitters Review, volume 43 (Feb 1908), 160. Russ’s wife Catherine was confirmed at St. Paul’s in 1863, and their daughter was baptized here the same year. Herman and Catherine became communicants in 1875 and 1880, respectively. Their children were confirmed here, and Herman’s funeral was held at St. Paul’s in 1908.

[xi] “Dissolution,” Albany Evening Journal 25 May 1871, 3.

[xii] Parker, 142. See also The Metal Worker, volume 1, number 9 (17 Sep 1898), 52.

[xiii] Grace Church had been founded in 1846, with financial support from St. Paul’s. In 1865, the church (then located at the corner of Washington Avenue and Lark Street) was unable to support itself financially, and St. Paul’s provided our assistant minister, Edwin B. Russell, to serve as their rector. That relationship lasted until 1866.

Donald Shore Candlyn

Donald Shore Candlyn

Last Sunday, I shared some of the treasures of Christmases past that were preserved in the four folio volumes of Grace McKinlay Kennedy’s Memory Book. Today marks a more solemn occasion, one that Mrs. Kennedy has also preserved. Today is the 75th anniversary of the death of Donald Shore Candlyn.

I’ve written about Donald Shore Candlyn, who died heroically in the Battle of the Bulge. But reading through Mrs. Kennedy’s scrapbooks, I’ve found some more details. First, an original photograph of the 19-year-old sergeant. And also the citation for Candlyn’s posthumous Silver Star, contained in a letter to T.F.H. Candlyn from Major General Edward F. Witsell of the Adjutant General’s Office, dated 20 Aug 1945. Military censors have replaced both the precise location of the events and Candlyn’s regiment number with asterisks.

Silver Star

For gallantry in action near ****, on December 26th, 1944.

On the evening of 26 December 1944, Company E, ** Infantry Regiment, completed a successful attack and entered the town of ****. Communication lines between the company and the Battalion Command Post had been disrupted by enemy fire and as the company failed to establish contact by radio, it was necessary to send a runner to the Command Post for further orders. The man assigned this mission was held up by heavy enemy fire, and did not get through. Sergeant Candlyn, assistant mortar section sergeant, volunteered. He ran forward through intense fire, and before reaching the Battalion Command Post was killed by a sniper’s bullet. His unusual courage under enemy fire and his aggressiveness in action reflect the highest credit upon Sergeant Candlyn and the armed forces of the United States.

 

Christmas Ephemera from St. Paul’s Memory Book

On this last Sunday of Advent 2019, with Christmas Day just three days off, I’d like to share a few items from Christmases past, found in St. Paul’s Memory Book, a series of four large scrapbooks lovingly compiled by Mrs. Grace McKinlay Kennedy in the 1940s.

Starting with the most recent, here is the cover for the 1945 Christmas bulletin

Christmas Service Bulletin 1945

And a snapshot from the same year of the Christmas morning service in the Lancaster Street chapel. That’s the rector, George A. Taylor, reading the gospel. The two servers are his sons, Tucker Taylor and Frank Webb “Webbie” Taylor.

Christmas Morning Service 1945

Taylor was rector from 1932 until 1948.

George A. Taylor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, two Christmas cards from the family of Arthur R. McKinstry, rector from 1927 until 1931.

Arthur R. McKinstry

 

McKinstry Christmas Card 1927

McKinstry Christmas Card 1930

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cards, from 1927 and 1930, show the four children, ready for Christmas morning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, a ticket from the Sunday School Christmas festival of 1880.

Sunday School Christmas Festival 1880

I’ve been unable to find any information about the event, but we know a bit about the location. Tweddle Hall (built by former St. Paul’s senior warden John Tweddle), was on the northwest corner of State and Pearl Streets in downtown Albany. Three years after the Christmas Festival, the structure burned, and was replaced by the Tweddle Building.

John Tweddle

Tweddle Hall, northwest corner of State and Pearl Streets (image credit: Albany Institute of History and Art)

This ticket was given to Mrs. Kennedy by Mrs. Mary A. Halse, aunt of St. Paul’s organist Raymond Sherwood Halse.

Veterans Day 2019: Dirk Roor

Memorial plaque for World War II Dead

In a previous post, I wrote about  the 255 men and women from St. Paul’s church who served in the Second World War and about the plaque bearing the names of those who died in that service. That post concentrated on one of those names, Donald Shore Candlyn. On this Veterans Day, I’d like to tell you about another of the fifteen named.

Dirk Roor (Knickerbocker News 17 May 1934)

Dirk Roor was born in Albany in 1925. Both of his parents were recent immigrants from the Netherlands, and the first time we find Dirk mentioned in the newspapers is this picture of him, age 9, dressed in a traditional Dutch costume, including wooden clogs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dirk had been baptized in Albany’s First Reformed Church, but his mother (who had beem widowed in 1934) enrolled him in T. Frederick H. Candlyn’s choir of men and boys at St. Paul’s. The next time we find him mentioned in the newspapers, he is again in costume, but this time for Halloween, posing with other trebles from St. Paul’s choir and the choirmaster’s wife, Dorothy Ridgeway Candlyn.

Choirboys’ Halloween. Dirk Roor is at left.  (Knickerbocker News 28 Oct 1938)

Dirk is probably also in this formal picture of the 1937 St. Paul’s choir, but I have been unable to identify him.

St. Paul’s Choir, with T.F.H. Candlyn, 1937

After graduating from Albany High School, Roor enlisted in the Army Air Forces in March 1944. He was a turret gunner on a B-24 Liberator that was declared missing in a combat mission over Hungary in March 1945, and his mother received confirmation of his death five months later. At the time of his death, three months before the German surrender, Sergeant Roor was 19 years old.

Sgt. Dirk Roor (Knickerbocker News 24 Aug 1945)

Dirk Roor is buried in his parents’ native country, in the American cemetery in Margraten, the Netherlands.

 

 

 

An unusual offer from School #9

Offer to St. Paul’s Vestry from the Trustees of School #9 11 Oct 1838

Among the miscellaneous papers in St. Paul’s old records (now safely housed at the New York State Library) is an inconspicuous half-sheet that gives us an interesting window onto public education in Albany 180 years ago.

It reads:

It is hereby agreed that if the Vestry of St. Paul’s Church will cause to be placed in the large room of the School Building No. 9 corner of Dallius & Ferry Streets the necessary desks & benches for said room, under the direction of Mr. Hughes[1] the Teacher of the District School No. 9, then the Trustees of the said District No. 9 will give to the said Vestry or their successors, the free use of said room for the purpose of a Sabbath School for the term of five years from the 1st day November 1838.

Oct 11/38

H.S. Van Ingen[2] for himself & for Stephen B. Gregory[3], (as authorized by him), Trustees of School Dist. No. 9 Albany

In 1838, the city of Albany had provided public education for less than a decade. As described in an excellent blog post by Fr. Kevin McGrath, O.P., it was only in 1830 that Albany organized public school districts. The effort was expanded in 1838 (the year this offer was made) with the construction of eight new schools, among them School #9, on the northeast corner of South Ferry and Dallius Street (now known as Dongan Street).

School #9, a three-story brick building with room for 210 students[4], was directly across Dallius Street from St. Paul’s church on South Ferry Street. While the city had been able to erect the new schools, it appears that it was not able to furnish them all. So the school trustees then turned to St. Paul’s, hoping to be able to obtain the necessary furniture at minimal cost.

Such an offer could certainly not be made today, when public institutions steer well clear of any financial arrangements with places of worship. But in a different time, with a looser interpretation of the Establishment Clause, the offer made sense for a fledgling school system that was short on funds.

When they made this offer, were Mr. Van Ingen and Mr. Gregory aware that St. Paul’s was overwhelmed with debt, and was being pressured by its creditors to sell the Ferry Street building? They may well have been, because there had been rumors about the sale of the building as early as 1836[5]. In fact, St. Paul’s vestry decided to sell the building at a meeting on January 14, 1839, three months after the trustees’ offer. By July 1839, St. Paul’s had left the South Ferry Street building, and was worshipping with St. Peter’s Church on State Street.

Although the offer was never acted upon, we have a hint that St. Paul’s intended to accept it. A cryptic penciled note[6] also in our archive reports a meeting immediately after the January 14, 1839 vestry decision that mentions “contributors for fitting up the Sunday School Room.”

[1] William H. Hughes was a teacher in School #9 for thirty-seven years, starting in 1834. No wonder that, a few years before his retirement in 1871, The Albany Evening Journal reported that neighborhood children knew the South Ferry Street school as “Hughes’ school.”

[2] Harmanus S. van Ingen was one of Albany’s earliest fire chiefs, the Chief Engineer of the Tivoli Hose Company, Albany’s only hose company as late as the Great Fire of 1848. On his retirement, the company was renamed the Van Ingen Company.

[3] Stephen B. Gregory was a businessman, a partner in the firm of Gregory, Bain & Co., merchants in china, glass and earthenware.

[4] George Rogers Howell and Jonathan Tenney, Bi-centennial history of Albany: History of the county of Albany, N.Y., from 1609 to 1886 (New York: W.W. Munsell & Co., 1886), 696.

[5] Albany Argus 02 Feb 1836.

[6] The full text, also on a half sheet of paper reads: “Minutes read. An amendment to the resolution of the vestry that it was expedient to sell St. Paul’s Church was moved, viz,. after the words to sell St. Paul’s church provided $4000 was not raised by a com. appointed by the members of the congregation at a meeting held in the church Monday 14 Jany. On motion of S. DeWitt Bloodgood the following resolutions were passed. Resolved that the names of the contributors for fitting up the Sunday School Room be entered on the minutes together with the expense of the same.”

St. Paul’s First Cemetery Plot

Deed for St. Paul’s plot in the State Street Burying Grounds

In a previous post, I described St. Paul’s cemetery plot, given to the congregation in 1878 and still in use today. But that section of the Albany Rural Cemetery was not our first cemetery plot. Forty years earlier, in March 1838, the City of Albany granted St. Paul’s “[a]ll that certain piece or parcel of land, bounded on the south by Lancaster street, on the east by the Presbyterian burying ground, on the north by lot number Eleven and by No. 27, and west by Snipe Street” for use as a cemetery.

Diagram of St. Paul’s plot in the State Street Burying Grounds

Can’t quite picture where that would have been? For the past 150 years, Snipe Street has been known as Lexington Avenue. If you extend the line of Lexington and Lancaster Streets (both now much shorter than they were then), you will find that the plot’s southwest corner would have been at a point on the north side of what is now Washington Park.

This was in the State Street Burying Grounds, Albany’s public cemetery from 1800 until 1866. Each Christian denomination had a section, and there were also a Potter’s Field, a section for African-Americans and a small number of graves of persons not associated with a church.

Location of State Street Burying Grounds (credit: @AlbanyArchives)

This image overlays a current photograph of the Washington Park area with a map of the State Street Burying Grounds. In 1838, there were only two Episcopal churches in Albany, and you might expect that St. Paul’s shared the Episcopal lot with St. Peter’s. But it appears that St. Peter’s had sole use of the Episcopal section because the legal description makes it certain that St. Paul’s plot was at the south end of the section marked “Private Cemeteries” on this map. To confirm the location, notice that in the diagram of St. Paul’s section, the north end is marked as the vault of Archibald Campbell. His vault would have been the first of these Private Cemeteries to the north of our plot.

When the State Street Burying Grounds was closed and the land taken to build Washington Park, the burials were moved to the then-new Albany Rural Cemetery, in a section known as the Church Grounds. Our next research effort will be to try to determine who from St. Paul’s was buried in this plot, and where in the Albany Rural Cemetery they now rest.

St. Paul’s South Ferry Street: The Hobart Chancel

In an earlier post, I wrote about the Gothic design of St. Paul’s church on South Ferry Street. But what did the interior of that building look like?

During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the standard chancel configuration consisted of a “triple-decker” pulpit, with the holy table (seldom referred to as an altar), tucked at its base:

The lowest level of a triple-decker pulpit was reserved for the reading desk, at which the lay clerk led the singing and verbal responses of the service. Above the clerk’s desk was the minister’s reading desk, where a Bible, a large prayer book, and a metrical psalter were usually placed. Above this desk was the top deck, 10 feet or more above the floor, where the minister preached his sermon. Sometimes one desk served for both clerk and clergyman, and the middle tier was absent.[i]

William Hogarth (1697–1764): “The Sleeping Congregation”

This replaced an earlier arrangement, in which either the pulpit and holy table were at opposite ends of the nave, or the massive pulpit stood in front of the table, completely obscuring the congregation’s view.[ii] The newer arrangement represented two changes in Anglican practice. Since the Great Awakening, the spoken word (and especially the sermon) had become central to Anglican worship. The lofty pulpit and reading desk underscored the word’s importance.[iii] Additionally, the prominent position of the holy table in a central location immediately adjacent to the pulpit represented a growing recognition of the role of the Eucharist in Christian worship.[iv]

John Henry Hobart, Bishop of New York 1816-1830

Despite these laudable intentions, the bishop of New York, John Henry Hobart, was dissatisfied with this chancel arrangement. In his view, “[t]he holy eucharist is the highest form of Christian worship,”[v] and he thought that hiding the holy table beneath a huge pulpit did not make it sufficiently visible. It is then unfortunate that this design has been attributed to (and often blamed on) Bishop William Henry Hobart, and referred to as the Hobart Chancel. Hobart had a long-term interest in chancel design, and had significant influence of new buildings of the period. He was very much aware of the triple-decker’s limitations, and made recommendations precisely aimed at solving them.

In discussing the South Ferry Street church’s exterior, we mentioned three instances in which Hobart expressed opinions on the exterior design of churches. We will now see that in each of these, Hobart also spoke of the design of chancels, and in each affirmed or proposed a design that gave the holy table its due prominence.

First, we have seen that Bishop Hobart had a hand in the design of the interior of Zion Church, Morris, Otsego County, New York, built in 1818. Hobart requested a copy of the chancel design from its architect, Horatio T. McGeorge, Jr.[vi] According to contemporary accounts, there were two holy tables in that church, on either side of the pulpit. At the Eucharist, one table was brought forward in front of the pulpit, in full view of the congregation.[vii]

The second example is the 1821 article in which The Christian Journal and Literary Register enthusiastically described the new Episcopal church in Gardiner, Maine. In that same article, The Christian Journal (issued “under the inspection of the Right Rev. Bishop Hobart”) also expressed strong approval for the layout of that church’s chancel:

In this church the whole congregation see the clergyman in the performance of all the sacred offices. The altar especially is in full view. We wish this might be more generally the case, and that the cumbrous reading desks, which were introduced only on account of the great size of the cathedrals, might either be dispensed within small buildings, or made so light and small, and placed in such a point of view, as not to obstruct the sight of the chancel.[viii]

Third, in the Christian Journal article titled “Church Edifices” in the May 1827 issue  (which copied the Vermont article on construction “low, snug” stone buildings) expanded on these recommendations, speaking directly and in great detail to the problem with the standard triple decker.[ix]

“Elevation and ground Plan of a Pulpit, Reading Desk, Chancel, &c”

The first page of “Church Edifices” reproduces “Elevation and ground Plan for a Pulpit, Reading Desk, Chancel, &c,” drafted at Bishop Hobart’s request. The elevation shows a typical double-decker pulpit. But the text explains the difference with the standard  arrangement which are illustrated in the ground plan:  the pulpit, reading desk and communion table (labeled 1 through 3 respectively) are elevated by chancel (4), kneeling step (5) and platform (6):

“The principal object is to procure in new churches such an elevation of the chancel that the communion table and rails of the chancel may be seen above the pews from every part of the church. It is desirable also that there should be a platform between the chancel and the pews, of such a rise, that in case of ordinations or confirmations, the persons who stand on it may be seen by the congregation without inconvenience. With this arrangement of the chancel, the interesting solemnities which are performed there may be celebrated in the view of all the congregation. The disappointment will thus be avoided, which always takes place when, from the lowness of the chancel, and from there being no platform around it, the greater part of the congregation cannot witness those holy offices, no small part of the interest of which arises from their being seen.”[x]

It is possible that this 1827 chancel design was implemented in St. Paul’s Church, Buffalo. Christine B. Lozner states that “[[I]n 1826, Hobart introduced a new version of the “triple decker” pulpit, complete with Gothic detail (Fig.7), which became an important interior feature in many churches built during and after his tenure.”[xi] Her Figure 7[xii], labeled “Triple-decker pulpit recommended by Bishop Hobart C1826, Buffalo, St. Paul’s Church.”, reproduces a plate of a very similar chancel published in a history of St. Paul’s, Buffalo, [xiii] Lozner, however, gives no source for either the date or the connection to Bishop Hobart.

Elevation and plan of St. Paul’s Church, Buffalo from Charles Evans’ History of St. Paul’s Church, Buffalo, N.Y.

The chancel of Rochester’s St. Luke’s Church  (consecrated by Bishop Hobart in 1827) may have followed the same plan, but I have not been able to find a plan for confirmation.

Chancel of St. Luke’s Church, Rochester, New York (from Charles Wells Hayes, The Diocese of Western New York, 1904)

Turning now to the South Ferry Street building, can we see evidence of Hobart’s influence? We have only two contemporary descriptions from the brief period that St. Paul’s used the building (1829-1839). The first is far more detailed:

The interior finish is also gothic, and painted (by Messrs. Russel and Davis[xiv] of this city) in imitation of oak; there are 138 pews below, and 66 in the gallery. The pulpit, screen and altar were designed and drawn by Mr. George Vernon[xv], architect, and built by Mr. J. Bigelow[xvi]. The screen is 24 feet wide, supported by four octagonal gothic columns, in panel work, and rising about 18 feet from the chancel floor. The columns are finished at the top with pinnacles, ornamented and encircled with carved leaves and vines: in the centre of the screen and immediately over the pulpit, there rises a pediment, supported by clustered columns and an arch; the pediment also surmounted with a richly ornamented pinnacle extending to the ceiling, and standing in relief, in a niche prepared to receive it. The top of the screen and bases of the pinnacles are finished with castellated battlements, and the panel work in quatre foils.

The church is supplied with a large and splendid organ, from the factory of Mr. Henry Erben, of the city of New York.

The church has been built for the congregation of which the Rev. Richard Bury is the Rector, and the building and interior finish has been done under the superintendence and direction of Mr. W.W. Dougherty.[xvii] , [xviii]

The second description (oddly enough, from the same page of the same newspaper) gives an additional clue as to the arrangement of the chancel:

The Gothic screen and chancel, with which the pulpit and reading desk are connected, are said by competent judges to surpass any thing of the kind in this country, and to be a specimen of pure Gothic architecture.[xix]

Diagram of South Ferry Street Church, showing pew appraisals

These descriptions are supplemented by a diagram from the 1830s, showing the appraisals of pews on the building’s first floor. At the front is a large rectangular area. This is the chancel, containing pulpit, reading desk, screen and altar.

Interior of St John’s Church (the former St. Paul’s Church, South Ferry Street)

Our only image of the interior was made in 1895, long after the Roman Catholic congregation to which we sold the building had modified the chancel. In this photograph, we can see the arches, columns and pinnacles, because they are unchanged. The altar, reading desks and pulpit have all been replaced by the Roman Catholic congregation. Despite these losses, two major design elements remain: the steps and platform, raising the altar so it was in full view of congregation, the heart of the design “drafted at Bishop Hobart’s request.” I think we can assume that the missing elements also followed that design and closely followed Hobart’s recommendations.

[i] David Hain and Gardiner H. Shattuck, Jr., The Episcopalians (Westport CT: Praeger, 2004), 23.

[ii] William Wilson Manross, The Episcopal Church in the United States 1800 – 1840: A Study in Church Life (New York: AMS Press, 1967), 147.

[iii] Robert W, Prichard, A History of the Episcopal Church (Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing, 1999),64.

[iv] Manross, 147.

[v] John Henry Hobart, A Companion for the Altar (New York: T. and J. Swords, 1819), 25. For a discussion of the place of the eucharist in Hobart’s theology, see E. Clowes Chorley, Men and Movements in the American Episcopal Church (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1948), 178-181.

[vi] Arthur Lowndes (ed.), The Correspondence of John Henry Hobart 1798-1801, volume II of Archives of the General Convention (New York: privately printed, 1911), 504-505.

[vii] Lowndes, 513-514.

[viii] “Christ Church, Gardiner,” The Christian Journal and Literary Register, volume V, number 1 (January 1821), 30-31.

[ix] “Church Edifices,” Christian Journal and Literary Register (New York, NY), volume XI, number 5 (May 1827), 134-136.

[x] “Church Edifices,” Christian Journal and Literary Register, 135.

[xi] Christine B. Lozner, “Historic Churches of the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York,” National Register of Historic Place Multiple Property Documentation Form (received 31 Jul 1996), Section E, page 9. https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/NRHP/64500452_text, accessed 20 Jun 2019.

[xii] Lozner, Section E Illustrations.

[xiii] Charles W. Evans, History of St. Paul’s Church, Buffalo, N.Y. 1817-1903 (Buffalo: The Matthews-Northrup Works, 1903), facing page 34.  The diagram of the chancel layout has been clipped from a depiction of the nave and chancel layout facing page 31 of the same book.

[xiv] The firm Russell & Davis is listed in Albany city directories for 1827, 1828-1829, 1829-1830 and 1830-1831 at 364 N. Market Street, and identified variously as painters, painters and glaziers and as a paint store. The partners were Elihu Russell and Joseph Davis.

[xv] George Vernon (born George Verrall) was a comedian and singer, who managed the Albany Theatre on South Pearl Street from 1828 until his death in 1830. H.P. Phelps, The Players of a Century (Albany: Joseph McDonough, 1880), 111-112. Oddly, he is not listed in any city directory for the period 1827-1831. Vernon died in 1830, and was buried in St. Peter’s cemetery. The grave was later moved to Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands, New York. https://albanychurchgrounds.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/featured-gravestone-george-vernon/

[xvi] Jotham Bigelow (or Biglow), a carpenter, is listed in Albany city directories for 1828-1829, 1829-1830 and 1830-1831.

[xvii] William W. Dougherty is listed in Albany city directories for 1827, 1828-1829, 1829-1830 and 1830-1831 as either counselor, or counselor and attorney with office and residence at 603 S. Market Street. Dougherty was a St. Paul’s vestryman from 1827 until 1829, and was a member of the church’s building committee. In a classified advertisement inserted multiple times in the Albany Argus during the spring of 1828, contractors wishing to submit proposals for “building and finishing St. Paul’s church, in the city of Albany” are directed to Dougherty’s South Market Street office, where they could see the plans.

[xviii] “St. Paul’s Church,” Albany Gazette 25 Aug 1829. The item is dated “Albany, Saturday, August 22.” This description was later copied by two magazines: The American Masonic Record and Albany Saturday Magazine (volume 3, 29 August 1829, page 246) and The American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge (volume II, number III, November 1835, page 93). The Masonic Record copied this text precisely (other than claiming that the church has 148 rather than 138 pews), but credited the Albany Daily Advertiser. The American Magazine varies the text slightly, without adding additional relevant material.

[xix] “[Communication],” Albany Gazette 25 Aug 1829.

The J. Livingston Reese Memorial Volume

St. Paul’s has honored its former rectors in many ways. The building on South Pearl Street had a marble wall plaque for William Linn Keese on the nave wall. Portraits of William Ingraham Kip, Richard Bury and Thomas A. Starkey hung in heavy oak frames in the parish hall of the Lancaster Street church. And David C. Lithgow’s oil portrait of Roelif H. Brooks is still displayed in our parish library.

J. Livingston Reese

John Livingston Reese, our rector during the last third of the 19th century, was honored in several ways: with an oil portrait (now, sadly, much in need of restoration), a Tiffany window (The Good Shepherd, now in our vesting room), and a memorial book, published by the church’s vestry. It is this last, the only memorial volume for a rector published by the vestry, that I would like to tell you about today.

Reese was born in Philadelphia in 1838, and graduated from the Virginia Theological Seminary in 1861. He first served at St. Paul’s, Lockhaven, Pennsylvania. Even as a young man, he must have been an impressive figure. In a brief history of that church, he was described as “aristocratic” and “a veritable patrician, with a keen analytical mind, and eloquent, born to command.”[i] This aristocrat was in command here from 1864 until 1891, far longer than any other rector, and that quarter century surely left his imprint on the parish.

Memorial Service at the Grave of J. Livingston Reese, 25 Jun 1911

Photo of Memorial Service at the Grave of J. Livingston Reese in Albany Rural Cemetery, 25 Jun 1911

One of Reese’s legacies was financial: in his will, he left a portion of his large estate to St. Paul’s, with the stipulation that, beginning ten years after his death, the interest be used “for church purposes.” This bequest initially was $16,062.33. In 1909, when St. Paul’s was first able to draw interest from it, that sum had risen to $22,094.31.[ii] In a period when endowments were the main source of church income, the Rev. J. Livingston Reese Fund was an important source of income. As late as 1931, the principal had not decreased, this at a time when the St. Paul’s Endowment Fund was only $3,200.00![iii]

In Memoriam: Rev. John Livingston Reese, D.D.[iv], in addition to a brief biography, contains a description of his funeral, a tribute from the Bishop of Albany, William Croswell Doane, and the full text of two memorial sermons, preached on the Sundays following the funeral. The first of the memorial sermons was preached by Walton W. Battershall, rector of St. Peter’s Church, Albany. The second was by our then rector, Freeborn Garrettson Jewett, Jr., who had previously been Reese’s curate.

Freeborn G. Jewett, Jr.

The funeral, held here in 1899, while not to be compared to that of Daniel Manning, was certainly impressive. Almost a thousand people visited as he lay in state. For the service, the church was full and forty clergymen attended. For the occasion, St. Paul’s choirmaster, George Edgar Oliver, composed a new hymn tune to the text “Now the Laborer’s Task is O’er.”

George Edgar Oliver’s setting of “Now the Laborer’s Task is O’er”

Our copy of the book was donated in 1937 by Lillian Bassett Wolverton. Mrs. Wolverton was the sister of James Frederick Bassett, who grew up at St. Paul’s, was ordained deacon with the support of our vestry, and served as J.L. Reese’s curate from 1881 until 1883.

Frederick J. Bassett

[i] “Fiftieth Anniversary of St. Paul’s Church, Lock Haven, Pa,” The Church Standard, volume 89, number 22 (7 Oct 1905), 731.

[ii] St. Paul’s Year Book for 1909, page 17.

[iii] St. Paul’s Year Book for 1931, page not noted.

[iv] In Memoriam. Rev. John Livingston Reese, D.D., Rector St. Paul’s Parish 1864-1891 (Albany: Press of Weed-Parsons Printing Company, n.d.).