Category Archives: Free Chapels

The Rev. Mr. Kip suffers Mr. DeWitt’s “unmeasured abuse”

William Ingraham Kip (portrait attributed to Asa Weston Twitchell)

In earlier posts, we have described how in 1847 St. Paul’s rector, William Ingraham Kip, proposed building two mission chapels, and how those plans failed. Our senior warden, William H. DeWitt, then offered to fund the construction of a chapel of ease for St. Paul’s, to be known as the Chapel of the Holy Innocents, and located in Albany’s North End. As the building was being constructed, DeWitt changed course, resigned as St. Paul’s senior warden and formed Holy Innocents as a separate parish. When it came time to consecrate the new building, Kip (along with the rectors of Albany’s Grace Church and Trinity Church) formally protested the consecration, and the ceremony proceeded only when certain changes were made to the church deed and Kip withdrew his protest.

A letter, held in the archives of the Diocese of Maryland, has now added substantially to our understanding of the grounds of the protest, the resolution of the dispute, and the matter’s aftermath. Kip wrote it on August 6, 1851 and addressed it to Bishop William Rollinson Whittingham, who had ruled on the protest and conducted the consecration. Kip explains his protest and the reasons that he withdrew it. More important, he describes the ill will that was continuing between him and DeWitt a year after Holy Innocent’s consecration. And he asks the bishop, whom he in later years would refer to as an “old friend,”[i] a very large favor.

William Henry DeWitt

In the letter, Kip reminds Bishop Whittingham of the two points of his protest concerning DeWitt’s deed of conveyance, in which he perpetually leased the building and grounds to the church corporation. These points were DeWitt’s assertion of:

  • a right of unlimited nomination of the church’s rector “enabling him to force a Rector on them [the people of Holy Innocents]”
  • the descent of the right of nomination to William and Ann DeWitt’s heirs forever

Kip then describes the resolution to the protest, in which DeWitt’s deed of gift was substantially changed by:

  • restricting DeWitt’s right of nomination, by providing that DeWitt could only nominate the same person three times[ii]
  • eliminating the descent of the right of nomination, so that it would end with the DeWitts’ deaths[iii]

Holy Innocents

Given the long history of Kip and DeWitt’s relationship, we could guess that that this was a very personal dispute. They had worked together at St. Paul’s from 1837 until 1850. These were difficult years for St. Paul’s, and Kip and DeWitt as rector and senior warden, respectively, for that entire period worked together closely. It was through their collaboration that the parish recovered from bankruptcy and achieved financial stability. During the early, lean years, DeWitt was also St. Paul’s major financial contributor.

For his part, Kip was disappointed by the loss of the chapel and angry at provisions he saw as contrary to church law. He had proposed a mission chapel, as an outreach for a growing and thriving St. Paul’s and as an important work in furthering the mission of the church in the city of Albany. But Kip’s concern for proper ecclesiastical polity was also a factor. Shortly after the new church’s consecration, Kip’s vestry wrote him their “approbation of your proceedings in the matter of the consecration of the ‘Church of the Holy Innocents.’” In words that echoed Kip’s intentions in raising the protest:

All depend upon our clergy in keeping a watchful eye over the Church, allowing no innovations, nor dangerous precedents, rigidly adhering to its laws and in exactly observing its old landmarks. In all these things we feel we can say that you have done your duty and that you enjoy our highest regard and confidence.[iv]

DeWitt, for his part, was frustrated in his expectation of control over a chapel for which he had paid every expense, and promised to support forever. DeWitt must have felt that, having paid for the cost of both real estate and the building itself, he had the right to make it his own family church, after the model of Troy’s Church of the Holy Cross, which had been fully funded by Mary Warren and her family in 1844.

Wm. Ingraham Kip at St. Paul’s altar (from an 1847 portrait by William Tolman Carlton)

We have suspected, then, for some time that there must have been hard feelings, but did not learn until we saw this letter how the dispute had played out in the months and years after Holy Innocent’s consecration. We do not know DeWitt’s side, but Kip’s letter to Whittingham describes his view of this personal aspect of the dispute.

Kip describes how, over the year since the consecration, DeWitt has conducted a campaign of “unmeasured abuse” and “outrageous and long-continued slander.” Specifiically, Kip has heard of DeWitt “denouncing me to one of my vestry, as ‘an infamous, black, scoundrel’, (the proof being, my making that protest) & warning one of the families in my parish against me, as one whom they w[oul]d one day find out to be ‘a devil.” Kip also tells Whittingham that DeWitt has claimed that Whittingham had disapproved of Kip’s protest and that DeWitt “publicly denies that he was forced to yield anything , or that the deed has been in any way changed.” [v]

Kip’s purpose in writing was to ask Whittingham to confirm that DeWitt was wrong on all of these counts, by writing a letter affirming that the bishop had supported the protest and continued with the consecration only after two substantial changes to the deed. Kip asks that Whittingham put these in writing “in a letter of a single page” that he could show to those who believe DeWitt’s claims.

Finally, Kip asks Whittingham for his advice: would it be proper for Kip to present this matter to DeWitt’s rector, Sylvanus Reed, “demanding that he [DeWitt] be debarred from communion until he shall make proper reparation.” Kip does not mention the fact, but Whittingham may well have known that Kip was Sylvanus Reed’s mentor. Reed was the son of a St. Paul’s vestryman, had been brought up at St. Paul’s, and had been supported for ordination by Kip and St. Paul’s vestry. Whittingham would have known that a demand from Kip would certainly have been obeyed by the young Mr. Reed.

The Rev. Sylvanus Reed

Bishop Whittingham’s outgoing correspondence, sadly, has not survived. We will never know whether Kip asked Sylvanus Reed to withhold communion from William H. DeWitt. Nor do we know if Whittingham wrote the letter that Kip asked of him, and (if he did) how it might have affected Kip and DeWitt’s relationship.

If that outcome is unclear, it is more certain that failure of the mission chapel and DeWitt’s campaign of slander had an effect on William Ingraham Kip. Although he continued as rector of St. Paul’s for two additional years, his acceptance of election as missionary bishop of California may have been encouraged by the simmering conflict over the chapel of ease that never was.

In 1852, a year after this letter was written, Kip was thinking of moving on. That year, a friend suggested that Kip should express an interest in serving as rector of Trinity Church, San Francisco. Kip reported later:

The suggestion struck me favorably. I had been fifteen years in Albany, — had built up a large congregation, — and it seemed as if there was no room for progress or enlargement in the future. On the other hand, in San Francisco was a new field, — a rising empire, — and there was a freshness and enterprise in founding the Church in that region which rather fascinated my imagination.[vi]

And the controversy may have affected Whittingham view of Kip’s situation as well. As we have discussed before, he was the diocesan bishop of Maryland, acting here while the Diocese of New York had no bishop. Shortly after the discussion about the position in San Francisco, Kip was offered the rectorship in St. Peter’s Church, Baltimore, in Whittingham’s home diocese. Kip told his old friend Whittingham that he would not accept that call, but that he was tempted by the possibility of the position in San Francisco. Whittingham told him, “You must go to California, but not as a Presbyter! You must go out in another capacity.”[vii] It was the next year (1853), with backing from Whittingham and others, that Kip was elected missionary bishop of California, and left St. Paul’s Church.

[i] Wm. Ingraham Kip, The Early Days of My Episcopate (New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1892), 2, 7.

[ii] Another account describes the resolution differently: that DeWitt’s right of nomination would be “limited to three nominations and required to be exercised within a year from the occurrence of a vacancy.” [Joel Munsell, Annals of Albany, First Series, Volume X (Albany: Munsell & Rowland, 1859), 434]

[iii] The Albany Annals account describes this resolution differently as well: that the right to nominate would continue, but to William and Ann DeWitt’s issue, not their heirs. Since Mr. and Mrs. DeWitt then had no living issue, and were unlikely to have any more children (William was 51, and Ann 45), this would have had the same effect. [Joel Munsell, Annals of Albany. First Series, Volume X (Albany: Munsell & Rowland, 1859), 434]

[iv] Letter dated 20 Jul 1850 from the wardens and vestry of St. Paul’s Church to William Ingraham Kip. Held in St. Paul’s church archives.

[v] This may be what is referred to in a lengthy footnote to the Albany Annals account:

The ground of the opposition was, the nature of the reservations to the donors, and their heirs, and it was alleged that the deed of conveyance had been altered from the form in which it had been drawn up by Mr. J. C. Spencer, and assented to, as satisfactory, on the first opening of the church. The allegation was unfounded. The deed was made out in the office of J. V. L. Pruyn, Esq., and is a verbatim copy of the original draft made by Mr. J. C. Spencer, and admitted by him to contain nothing which could prevent the consecration. The Bishop received the protest; but on a conference with the donors, the right of nomination to the rectorship was limited (as by the release above), when he determined on proceeding.

[Joel Munsell, Annals of Albany, First Series, Volume X (Albany: Munsell & Rowland, 1859), 434-435]

[vi] Kip, Early Days, 1-2.

[vii] Kip, Early Days, 2.

Before Holy Innocents: an 1847 Proposal for Two Mission Chapels

We’ve told the story of how St. Paul’s rector, William Ingraham Kip, proposed a chapel of ease for the parish, and how the first steps towards forming the Chapel of the Holy Innocents were taken 1848. But we’ve recently seen a letter (held in the archives of the New-York Historical Society) written by Kip that provides additional information about an earlier proposal. It details plans which were quite different both from those discussed in 1848 and from the independent Church of the Holy Innocents as it was incorporated in 1850.

Holy Innocents

Kip’s letter, dated May 27, 1847, was addressed to Gulian Crommelin Verplanck, a vestryman of Trinity Church, Manhattan, the richest congregation in the Diocese of New York, which then included the state as far west as Utica. Trinity had provided financial aid to many struggling congregations across New York, including a $5,000 grant to St. Paul’s in 1833 that had kept the congregation afloat during a critical period.

William Ingraham Kip (portrait attributed to Asa Weston Twitchell)

Kip now asked for another grant of $5,000 from Trinity Church, but toward a wider mission. Kip’s goal was to establish not one but two mission churches in Albany, infusing “new Spirit with the entire Ch[urch] in Albany.” He saw need in the two fastest growing parts of the city: the north end “between Broadway and the canal” and in Arbor Hill, in the area just up the hill from the Ten Broeck Mansion. They would serve newcomers, mostly immigrants, many of whom had been members of the Church of England before emigrating. Kip describes the “immense mass of foreign destitution about us” and pleads “for thousands of the destitute, many of whom were Ch[urch] going people in England, but here feel that ‘no man careth for their souls.’”

Importantly, Kip did not ask that Trinity Church directly fund the two new churches. Rather, he proposed that the grant be designated to pay off half of St. Paul’s outstanding debt, reducing the interest the congregation would have to pay, and speeding the repayment of the principal. To justify this proposal, Kip reminds Verplanck of St. Paul’s recent history. Kip probably chose Verplanck because he would have already known some of this history, having lived in Albany from 1820 until 1823 as a State Assemblyman, and then again from 1838 until 1841 as a member of the State Senate.

St. Paul’s Ferry Street Building as it looked in the early 20th century

St. Paul’s financial problems had started with its founding in 1827, culminating in 1839 with the forced sale of the Ferry Street building and the move to Pearl Street. The church could have simply reincorporated and walked away from the debt arising from the construction of the Ferry Street building. Instead, they chose to honor those debts as they began what Kip describes as their “new enterprise” in the former Pearl Street Theatre. The congregation had grown significantly since then, and the parish was stronger than it had ever been. But St. Paul’s was still burdened by $10,000 in debt, and reluctant to start new ventures while holding that debt. Halving the debt, and substantially reducing the interest payments, would encourage the congregation to respond to the city’s needs.

St. Paul’s Second Building on Pearl Street

Kip’s vision, then, was not of missions funded and supported from the outside, but of a vibrant St. Paul’s, no longer constrained by heavy debt, that would be allowed to create and support new outreach, to venture forth in mission. These new missions, he stressed, would be entirely St. Paul’s work, fully supported by the parish.

The request was an urgent one, particularly because the two areas with greatest growth also had very few churches. In 1847, there was one Roman Catholic church in the North End (St. Joseph’s, in its original home on the corner of North Pearl and Livingston Avenue) and a Methodist Chapel in Arbor Hill (Arbor Hill Methodist). And Kip points out that John McCloskey, who had been appointed Albany’s first Catholic bishop a week earlier, was likely to plan moves into both of these areas.

William Henry DeWitt

We do not have Verplanck’s response, but it must have been negative. Within the next year, Kip and his senior warden, William H. DeWitt, had begun plans to fund a single chapel of ease in the North End through subscriptions. Those plans also failed, and it was only through DeWitt’s donation of the land and the cost of construction that Holy Innocents came to be built.

This, then, is the back-story of Holy Innocents. The passion of this letter, and Kip’s vision of St. Paul’s mission work explain Kip’s disappointment and anger when DeWitt formed Holy Innocents as a separate parish. Kip had seen the mission chapel as a vital outreach that would both enliven St. Paul’s and enhance the church’s cause in the city. But DeWitt’s creation of a separate parish had not only ruined that plan: Holy Innocent’s deed provided that DeWitt and his heirs would have the right to nominate the church’s rector in perpetuity, even over objections from the congregation. DeWitt’s vision of his own private, family chapel was the very antithesis of Kip’s plan.

Kip (with the rectors of Albany’s Trinity Church and Grace Church) protested the consecration of Holy Innocents. The consecration had proceeded only when DeWitt agreed to change the objectionable terms in the church deed and Kip withdrew his protest. In our next post we will learn more about Holy Innocent’s after-story: how hard feelings between Kip and DeWitt lingered even after Kip withdrew his protest.

Wm. Ingraham Kip at St. Paul’s altar (from an 1847 portrait by William Tolman Carlton)

 

St. Paul’s in Albany’s South End: the Old Engine House

St. Paul’s was originally founded in Albany’s South End. While we chose to leave that neighborhood in 1839, we established an important presence there thirty years later, when we created our Free Mission Chapel on Madison Avenue in 1867. This post discusses the intertwined reasons why St. Paul’s chose the Madison Avenue location for its Chapel, and why, after fourteen successful years, we chose to leave.

St. Paul's Ferry Street Building as it looked in the early 20th century

St. Paul’s Ferry Street Building as it looked in the early 20th century

The first home of “St. Paul’s Church or Congregation in the City of Albany” was  at what is now the corner of South Ferry Street and Dongan Avenue. The parish was organized as an outreach to that rapidly growing part of the city, and most of the early congregation was drawn from the neighborhood. Purchase of the property and construction of the building were too great a burden for the congregation. By 1830, only a year after the building was completed, debt and mounting interest payments were already threatening to overwhelm the young congregation. The parish struggled along on South Ferry Street until 1839, when creditors forced the vestry to sell the building. The leadership of St. Paul’s decided to leave the neighborhood and to modify a theater on Pearl Street as their church home, starting what they called “a new venture” in the center of Albany.

Trinity Church (image credit: Albany Group Archive)

Trinity Church (image credit: Albany Group Archive)

The decision to abandon the South End was not unanimous: a number of St. Paul’s families, including those of two vestry members, started a different “new venture.” Choosing to remain in the neighborhood, they formed a parish and named it Trinity Church. The new congregation was not strong or wealthy in its early years, but by 1848 they were able to build a handsome building on what is now Trinity Place, where they remained until they were closed in about 1980. As the only Episcopal congregation in Abany’s South End, Trinity will play a role as our story progresses.

St. Paul's Second Building on Pearl Street

St. Paul’s Second Building on Pearl Street

St. Paul’s stayed at the former Pearl Street Theater for twenty-three years, only leaving in 1862 after what had been an upscale residential neighborhood became Albany’s business district. We moved to our third home on Lancaster Street, a structure originally built as the Dudley Memorial Reformed Church. Five years after moving to Lancaster Street, St. Paul’s decided to establish a mission chapel. Vestry minutes record the purchase on December 20, 1867 of the former fire house on the south side of Madison Avenue, just east of Green Street, for a cash deposit of $1,500 and a mortgage totaling $2,366.16 “on behalf of the Missionary Society of the Church.”[i] The rector at the time says that this was “in response to an earnest desire to enter upon some mission work in the city.”[ii] But what were the Mission’s purposes and what were the reasons for the timing of purchase and the location selected?

The chapel’s name suggests the purposes for this new outreach: it was called a Free Mission Chapel. Like the Chapel of the Holy Innocents, this was to be a free chapel, meaning that seating was open to all, without the requirement to pay pew rents, the most common method of financial support for churches at that time. And it was to be a mission chapel, serving the underserved: the unchurched, the poor, recent immigrants. Importantly, it would also be a home for the deaf ministry, which had been active at St. Paul’s since early in that decade.

The timing of this decision, shortly after the move to Albany’s west end, was hardly coincidental. The congregation had moved almost half a mile northwest, but many in the congregation would still have lived in the old city center. A newspaper article of the period suggests that in this location “[a] considerable number of families who formerly attended St. Paul’s Church when located in South Pearl Street, but who were unable to follow it to its present location, will doubtless reunite themselves with the church by attendance at this mission.”[iii]

Albany's South End (base map circa 1895)

Albany’s South End (base map circa 1895)

In addition to being close to the city center, the Madison Avenue location had another advantage: it was only four blocks from the site of the first St. Paul’s on Ferry Street. Our vestry may have hoped to reestablish our presence in the neighborhood in which we had been born, encouraging the return of those who had fallen away after St. Paul’s left the South End , and perhaps even attracting those who were attending Trinity Church.

"The Old Engine House" The former Free Mission Chapel as it looked in the early 20th century

“The Old Engine House” The former Free Mission Chapel as it looked in the early 20th century

The Mission Chapel congregation affectionately referred to their building as “the old engine house.” The former fire house was located at 62 Madison Avenue, on the south side of the street, a few doors east of Green Street. It was originally the home of Steamer 5, and later that of the Daniel D. Tomkins Engine Company No. 8. When it was officially opened, on the first Sunday of 1868, the building held 250. In 1872, the Mission’s priest-in-charge, Walker Gwynne, raised money to expand the chapel by 25 feet, increasing its seating capacity to 300.[iv]

From the beginning, St. Paul’s supported the majority of the mission’s expenses by voluntary contributions. In 1870, in declining to pay a diocesan assessment of $600 for missions, the vestry reported supporting the Mission at a cost of about $2,500 annually, as well as being “the sole supporter of the Mission for Deaf Mutes in this section of the state.”[v] The Mission’s priest-in-charge was St. Paul’s assistant rector, whose salary was also paid by St. Paul’s contributions.

In 1874, the Mission Chapel opened a night school, which taught adults the three R’s. The Albany Morning Express reported that the school “is well attended, and is a good move to reach the masses and finally lead them to Christ.”[vi]

The little chapel must have been a very busy place. By the late 1870s, the original schedule of morning and evening Sunday services had been expanded with an afternoon Sunday School, Tuesday and Friday choir rehearsals and a Friday evening service, with another choir rehearsal following, as well as the evening classes and services for the deaf.

Thomas B. Berry

Thomas B. Berry

As a sign of the importance of the deaf ministry in the Chapel’s life, its priest-in-charge from 1872 until 1874 was Thomas B. Berry, who before his ordination had taught in schools for the deaf in England, New York City and Frederick, Maryland. During his term as the Chapel’s pastor, Berry also assisted Thomas Gallaudet in work of Church Mission for Deaf Mutes around the state.

In 1879, a very active Young People’s Association had a full slate of officers and many activities (they were mainstays of the chapel choir), including a short-lived publication, “The Chapel Monitor.” A Guild of Purity and Truth for girls attracted a good many postulants (ages 10 to 12) and members (over age 12).

Masthead of "The Chapel Monitor"

Masthead of “The Chapel Monitor”

Ten years after it was founded, St. Paul’s mission showed a growing sense of independence. In 1879 “The Chapel Monitor” called for the Chapel to become an independent parish. An editorial in the second issue of the “Monitor” laid out a detailed plan that would allow this to happen within ten years. At this time, the Mission congregation was still only able to provide about one-third of the cost of operations there, the remainder coming from offerings by members of St. Paul’s. We don’t know what happened to these plans, but assume that the Chapel was not able to obtain commitments for larger donations from the Mission congregation. In 1882 and 1883, St. Paul’s was still paying two-thirds of the Mission’s costs.[vii]

1882 Annual Report, St. Paul's Free Mission Chapel

1882 Annual Report, St. Paul’s Free Mission Chapel

Although the Free Chapel was placed on Madison to expand St. Paul’s access to those living in Albany’s South End, the location also resulted in competition with St. Paul’s offshoot, Trinity Church, which was located only five blocks away. “In 1884, at the request of Trinity Church, which felt that it should have a clear field in that part of the city, the building was sold and the congregation united with that of Trinity.”[viii]

So it was that the Mission congregation was merged into the parish that had split off from St. Paul’s in 1839. The South End was better served by a parish strengthened by the Mission’s congregation and one dedicated to that part of the city. In the early twentieth century Trinity, under the leadership of Creighton Storey,  created the Trinity Institute, which more than a century later (now as Trinity Alliance) is still providing social services for the South End.

St. Paul’s, looking for a different mission field, found the far western part of the city underserved, and used the proceeds of the Chapel’s sale to fund a mission organized by the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, with services conducted by our assistant rector. St. Andrew’s Mission was initially begun in 1892 in a room in the West End Loan Association on Madison Avenue, moving the next year to a house on Ontario Street.[ix] By 1897, the first service was held at St. Andrew’s Chapel and St. Andrew’s Church became an independent parish in 1899.[x]

[i] St. Paul’s Vestry Minutes, Volume 2, 19 Dec 1867 and 27 Jan 1868.

[ii] J. Livingston Reese “Historical Sketch of St. Paul’s Parish,” in The Semi-centennial Services of St. Paul’s Church, Albany, N.Y. (Albany: The Argus Company), 16.

[iii] Albany Argus, 31 Dec 1867.

[iv] Albany Morning Express, 25 Jul 1872.

[v] St. Paul’s Vestry Minutes, Volume 2, 11 Feb 1870.

[vi] Albany Morning Express, 7 Nov 1874.

[vii] “St. Paul’s Mission Chapel 1882” and “St. Paul’s Mission Chapel 1883” in St. Paul’s archives.

[viii] George E. DeMille, A History of the Diocese of Albany 1704-1923 (Philadelphia: The Church Historical Society, 1946), 126.

[ix] Albany Morning Express, 31 Dec 1892, 5.

[x] DeMille, 126.

William M. Lange, Jr., Missionary to the Deaf

Thomas Gallaudet (image courtesy Library of Congress)

Thomas Gallaudet (image courtesy Library of Congress)

Later this month, on August 27, the Episcopal Church’s Lesser Feasts and Fasts commemorates Thomas Gallaudet, of whom it says:

Ministry to the deaf in the Episcopal Church begins with Gallaudet. Without his genius and zeal for the spiritual well-being of deaf persons, it is improbable that a history of ministry to the deaf in the Episcopal Church could be written. He has been called “The Apostle to the Deaf.”

Thomas Benjamin Berry

Thomas Benjamin Berry

In a previous post, we discussed Thomas Gallaudet’s connection with St. Paul’s Church, and how for 125 years a ministry to the deaf was a significant part of our witness in the city of Albany. We have also described two other figures in that ministry: Thomas Berry (the St. Paul’s curate who, in the early 1870s, organized the deaf ministry at St. Paul’s Madison Avenue mission) and Harry Van Allen (a St. Paul’s communicant who became missionary to the deaf throughout New York State). Today’s topic is yet another member of St. Paul’s who ministered to the deaf both here and across the State.

Harry Van Allen

Harry Van Allen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

William Maurice Lange, Jr. was born in 1909. At age ten, he contracted spinal meningitis and lost his hearing. He was educated at the Albany School for the Deaf on Pine Avenue, and like Harry Van Allen, attended Gallaudet College, graduating in 1934. Lange married a college classmate, and the young couple settled in Albany, where William worked in his father’s pharmacy on Dove Street. William Lange had not been raised in the Episcopal Church, but he was attracted to the programs for the deaf at St. Paul’s Church. Through his attendance here, he found himself called to full-time ministry. While preparing for ordination, he led services as a lay reader at St. Paul’s.

William Maurice Lange, Jr.

William Maurice Lange, Jr.

With the support of our vestry, William Lange was ordained a deacon in 1940, and a priest in 1943. Both ceremonies were held here at St. Paul’s. Years later, Lange would ponder the coincidence in the date of his ordination:

Father Lange’s predecessor in this unique missionary field was the Rev. Henry [sic] Van Allen of Albany. On Sunday, Feb. 9, 1919, the latter conducted in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, a service “commemorative of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Mission of the Deaf, and of his work as a missionary.”

It was during that same week that Father Lange became deaf after being stricken with spinal meningitis. And it was just 24 years later, to the week, that Father Lange took over from the Rev. Van Allen.

He often reflects on these coincidences and asks himself, “Could God have been preparing me for this work?” [Times Union 17 Feb 1952]

So, in 1943, William Lange began a ministry very much like that of Harry Van Allen. From his home base in Syracuse, he officiated at an average of 275 services each year, with one thousand communicants in twenty-two congregations spread over an area of 43,600 square miles in the dioceses of Albany, Central New York, Rochester and Western New York. In 1944, he reported, “I cover over 17,000 miles a year by train, bus and shoe-leather.” By 1952, with access to a car, he traveled 32,500 miles.

The Diocese of Albany honored Lange’s service by making him an honorary canon in 1963; in 1967, Gallaudet University granted him an honorary doctorate. We don’t know much of the later years of his ministry, but he was active until his retirement in 1976, at age 67. William Lange died in Syracuse in 2009, shortly after his 100th birthday.

 

 

Holy Innocents: The Chapel of Ease That Never Was

St. Mark’s Chapel was the third and last of St. Paul’s missions, but there was one additional mission that was carefully planned, a building designed, a cornerstone laid, yet never served that purpose. You know it as the Church of the Holy Innocents on the corner of North Pearl and Colonie Street, but it began its life as the Chapel of the Holy Innocents, a chapel of St. Paul’s Church.

Holy Innocents

Holy Innocents

When William Ingraham Kip returned from his medical leave in August 1845, he resumed the busy life he had left a year earlier, and the church continued to flourish.

Wm. Ingraham Kip at St. Paul's altar (from an 1847 portrait by William Tolman Carlton)

Wm. Ingraham Kip at St. Paul’s altar (from an 1847 portrait by William Tolman Carlton)

Two years later, in 1847, the increased size of the congregation was straining the available seating in the North Pearl Street church building. Consulting with his long-time senior warden, William H. DeWitt, Kip proposed to build a chapel in Albany’s rapidly growing North End, intending “to sustain it as a free church and mission.” When he referred to a free chapel, Kip meant a building which was conveniently located for St. Paul’s parishioners who lived far from the main church, and one which was financially supported without resort to pew rents. The clear intention, then, was to create what is known as a “chapel of ease” for St. Paul’s parish, not a church for a new, separate parish.

Kip and DeWitt organized a subscription to raise funds, and started planning the building with a young architect, Frank Wills. DeWitt’s wife, Ann Covenhoven DeWitt, donated two lots for the building.

William Henry DeWitt

William Henry DeWitt

St. Paul’s vestry approved these preliminary plans “to build a free chapel in connection with this Parish” in July 1848, and a building committee was formed. The vestry specified that the finances of the chapel be kept distinct from St. Paul’s, with “no liability on any account to be incurred or created against St. Paul’s Church.”

Conflagration at Albany N.Y., August 17, 1848

Conflagration at Albany N.Y., August 17, 1848

 

 

 

 

 

These plans were derailed a month later by the massive fire of August 1848, which destroyed 439 buildings in close to 200 acres in the heart of the city. The subscription for a building fund failed. It was at this time that DeWitt volunteered to support the entire cost of the new chapel.

William and Anna DeWitt had four children, all baptized at St. Paul’s Church. All died as babies or young children between 1830 and 1844. A heart-breaking note in our parish records, after the record of the death of the two boys within two days of each other in December 1844, reads: “the parents of these children are now childless.” The DeWitts proposed to fund the chapel as a memorial to their children.

The couple could well afford this donation. William Henry DeWitt was a lumber dealer, and while we don’t know his wealth at this time, fifteen years later he paid taxes on income of about $36,500, the equivalent of almost a million dollars in today’s currency.

Construction of the Chapel of the Holy Innocents began on May 13, 1849. Kip wrote that day to William Rollinson Whittingham, Bishop of Maryland, asking that he lay the building’s cornerstone on June 7, 1849, when Whittingham was already scheduled to be here to consecrate Trinity Church and to perform confirmations at St. Paul’s. Kip wrote: “Cannot you on that afternoon lay the corner stone of our Chapel of Ease? It was begun today & will be about ready for the corner stone at that time. It is to be attached to St. Paul’s Parish (seats free) & to be principally under the charge of an assistant minister. It is to be of stone & far finer than the Holy Cross at Troy.”

The Rev. Sylvanus Reed

The Rev. Sylvanus Reed

The assistant minister whom Kip had chosen was a recently-ordained deacon, Sylvanus Reed, who had grown up at St. Paul’s and had been supported for ordination by the vestry. Whittingham must have accepted Kip’s invitation, because the chapel cornerstone was indeed laid on June 7, 1849, with Kip preaching in place of the Bishop, who was indisposed.

You might ask why the Bishop of Maryland was presiding. Didn’t the Diocese of New York (in which St. Paul’s then resided) have a bishop? Yes, Benjamin Tredwell Onderdonk was bishop, but in 1845 he had been found guilty of “immorality and impurity” by the House of Bishops and suspended “from the office of a Bishop … and from all the functions of the sacred ministry.” New York had a bishop, but a bishop who could not officiate. Between 1845 and 1852 (when the first provisional bishop was elected), all episcopal services had to be conducted by bishops from other dioceses.

In his report to the Standing Committee of the Diocese of New York, Bishop Whittingham wrote: “On Thursday, June the 7th, I laid, with appropriate solemnities, the corner-stone of the Chapel of the Holy Innocents, designed for a free chapel of ease of St. Paul’s Church, Albany.” And through most of 1849, Holy Innocents is consistently referred to as a chapel. That changed abruptly in late 1849 or early 1850. The DeWitts had been members of St. Paul’s since 1831; William H. DeWitt had been a warden of St. Paul’s Church since 1837. But on February 16, 1850, the chapel was organized as the Church of the Holy Innocents, a separate parish in the city of Albany, with William H. DeWitt its senior warden.

Interior of the Church of the Holy Innocents

Interior of the Church of the Holy Innocents

We will never know what prompted this change. Could DeWitt have felt that, having paid the entire cost of the property and the church building, he should have control of the enterprise? Did William H. DeWitt want Holy Innocents to be his own church?

DeWitt’s interest in control is shown clearly in an unusual condition in the church’s incorporation “[a] reservation of a right of nomination to the rectorship, to the donors and their heirs (said heirs to be of the age of twenty-one years, and communicants in the P[rotestant] E[piscopal] church).” DeWitt wanted to be able to name the rector, and wanted to grant the same right to his heirs forever.

We have better evidence for William Ingraham Kip’s view of this condition. Before the church was consecrated in September 1850, three Albany clergymen filed a formal objection to the consecration, specifically objecting to DeWitt’s control over the naming of a rector. Kip was not present at the consecration, which suggests that he was one of the three. But we also have a cryptic letter from the vestry to Kip, praising “your proceedings in the matter of the consecration of the ‘Church of the Holy Innocents’”. What those proceedings were is not specifically stated, but the vestry does praise Kip for guarding against “innovations” and “dangerous precedents,” which probably refer to the right of nomination.

Bishop Whittingham discussed the objection with DeWitt, who agreed to modify the right, restricting it to the DeWitts’ issue (as opposed to heirs), limiting the number of nominations to three and requiring that the nominations “be exercised within a year from the occurrence of a vacancy.” Whittingham then consecrated the church, with no clergy from St. Paul’s present.

As with the break with Trinity Church nineteen years earlier, the creation of this new congregation came at significant cost: the loss of William and Ann DeWitt. But the establishment of Holy Innocents did, indeed “promote the interests of religion in this City” as St. Paul’s vestry had predicted.

Grace and Holy Innocents (credit: Albany Group Archive)

Grace and Holy Innocents (credit: Albany Group Archive)

In its first home for almost one hundred years, and on Clinton Avenue for another seventy years after its merger with Grace Church, the congregation has been an important presence of the Episcopal Church in north Albany.

The DeWitts’ gift still stands in its original location. Although the Russian Orthodox congregation that worshiped there for forty years replaced the traditional bell-cot with an onion dome, the authentic Gothic complex still creates the feeling of an English country churchyard on a gritty street corner.

Church of the Holy Innoents (credit: Albany Group Archive)

Church of the Holy Innoents (credit: Albany Group Archive)

The building has been empty since 1983, and, to our city’s shame, has been allowed to deteriorate. While the collapse of a section of wall in May 2015 is particularly worrisome, we may hope that the city and the building’s current owner, Hope House, will be able to stabilize the structure, not only as a precious example of early Gothic revival architecture, but also as a reminder of its important role in Albany history.

If the building cannot be saved, my hope would be that some of the stained glass could be rescued. According to the building’s National Register application: “the Bolton windows in the west facade and the chancel, and the two grisaille windows near the west end of the nave” were still “extant, but in need of repair” in 1978. They are the work of John Bolton (1818–1898), who collaborated with his brother William Jay Bolton. They represent some of the earliest stained glass made in this country using authentic medieval techniques.

 

 

St. Mark’s Chapel

During its first century, St. Paul’s Church supported three chapels in the city of Albany. They were all located in areas of the city that were underserved by other churches, and they were all “free,” meaning that they were supported by pledges, rather than by the sale and rental of pews, as was the case at St. Paul’s until 1927.

Today’s post concerns the last of these, St. Mark’s Chapel, which existed for five years, from 1909 until 1913. St. Marks was a project of St. Paul’s Chapter of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew (“For the spread of Christ’s Kingdom Among Men”), which was chartered November 17, 1891. The Brotherhood was a small organization (rarely more than a dozen men), headed by the rector and with membership drawn from prominent parishioners.

The Brotherhood’s report in St. Paul’s Year Book for 1908 describes the background of this effort, and the initial plans for its development under the heading “The Delaware Avenue Chapel.”

 Under the auspices of the Brotherhood of Saint Andrew of Saint Paul’s Parish, a chapel will be established in the Delaware avenue section of the city sometime during the month of December. This work will be in line with similar efforts made by the Parish in past years. Many of the parishioners will remember Saint Paul’s Free Chapel, on lower Madison avenue, which was located in a fire engine house purchased from the city in 1867, and the night school which was maintained to give instruction in the “three R’s” of elementary education. This chapel was maintained until 1884 when it was sold. Then the “Pine Hills” section of the city began to be built up and a Sunday School was established to meet the needs of that section. Out of this came a reading room on Ontario street and finally the building of the present Saint Andrew’s Church, which became an independent Parish in 1899.

The up-building of the Delaware avenue section offers the same opportunities as did Pine Hills, and the Brotherhood of Saint Andrew has long felt that something ought to be done to provide a Sunday School for the children, and this will be their first work, and just as soon as it is feasible services will be inaugurated. The history of the Parish guarantees the interest of Saint Paul’s in this work. “To help others is to help ourselves.”

St. Mark’s was formally opened in January 1909 by the Rt. Rev. Richard H. Nelson, D.D., Bishop Coadjutor of Albany. The building, a remodeled storehouse, was located on what is now called Oneida Terrace, just off of Morton Street and only a few blocks from Delaware Avenue. The mission seems to have been a success from the beginning. One month after opening, plans were made to provide additional seating. And a year later, with a Sunday School class of twenty to twenty-five and attendance of forty to fifty at the services conducted by St. Paul’s curate Arthur H. Beaty, there was discussion of moving to a larger building.

By the 1912 Year Book, the Brotherhood was able to report movement toward construction of a church building for the Mission:

The work of the Brotherhood during the past six months has been almost exclusively given to the work at St. Mark’s Chapel. About seventeen hundred dollars have been given or pledge for paying for two lots on Delaware avenue as a site for a new chapel, and we expect to raise the balance, one thousand dollars during the winter.

Included with this report are two architectural renderings for the new building, one of the crypt,

Design for St. Mark's Crypt

Design for St. Mark’s Crypt

and one an elevation view of the church itself.

St. Mark's Church Design

St. Mark’s Church Design

But the Chapel never resumed after its summer break in  1913. The lease on the former storehouse could not be extended, and, while the funds for purchase of the Delaware Avenue lots were in hand, the situation had changed. We read in the 1913 Year Book:

The school year closed May 26, 1913, with the expectation that when work was resumed in the fall, it would be in a chapel building of our own. Owing to the possibility of too many Churches being erected in the Delaware avenue section of the city and resulting in ‘religious competition,’ the erection of a building for St. Mark’s has been deferred, and the school for the Chapel is for the present merged with the Church School.

This entry marks the end of an important experiment in community outreach for St. Paul’s. Year Books over the next dozen years continue to show balances in the St. Mark’s Chapel Account, but with no indication of plans to proceed with the project. It is possible that St. Paul’s Church decided that the Trinity Institute (begun in 1912 in Albany’s South End, with Bishop Doane’s blessing and financial support from all the diocese’s congregations) would be a more effective vehicle for social programs.

 

 

 

 

Thomas Gallaudet, “Apostle to the Deaf” at St. Paul’s

In The Proper for the Lesser Feasts and Fasts, today’s date, August 27, honors Thomas Gallaudet, known as the Apostle to the Deaf. Among saints so honored, he is the only one who was associated with St. Paul’s Church, and who sparked what has been called “one of the most peculiar and interesting agencies for good connected with St. Paul’s,” a ministry to the deaf that lasted for over one hundred years.

In the early nineteenth century there was no organized education for the deaf in the United States. In 1815, a Hartford, Connecticut businessman, seeking an education for his deaf daughter, paid Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet’s way to Europe to learn about advances there. When Gallaudet returned, he brought the source of what would become American Sign Language and French techniques for teaching the deaf and he was named principal of the Hartford School for the Deaf, the first school for the deaf in the United States.

But Thomas H. Gallaudet, for whom Gallaudet University is named, is not the person we remember today. It is, rather, his son, Thomas Gallaudet, an Episcopal clergyman who in 1852 established St. Anne’s Church to serve the deaf of New York City.

Thomas Gallaudet

Thomas Gallaudet

From that base Gallaudet reached out to other cities: first Philadelphia, then Baltimore, and, in 1860, Albany. Here, Gallaudet was welcomed by St. Paul’s new rector, William Rudder, who as an undergraduate in Hartford had known of the Deaf School.

Between 1860 and 1872, the Rev. Thomas Gallaudet or one of his associates traveled to Albany each month to conduct services for the deaf and to translate sermons at regular services into sign language. As this outreach expanded beyond the northeastern United States, Gallaudet formed the Church Mission for Deaf-Mutes, for which he served as General Manager for many years.

Albany Evening Journal 9 Mar 1861

Albany Evening Journal 9 Mar 1861

Preaching at St. Paul’s fiftieth anniversary in 1877, Gallaudet proudly described the Church Mission’s activities across the country, and reminisced about the years which St. Paul’s had extended a “helping and guarding hand” to the deaf of this part of the state.

As further support for the Church Mission, this congregation in 1872 called the Rev. Thomas Benjamin Berry as assistant to the rector and as priest-in-charge of St. Paul’s Mission Church on lower Madison Avenue.

Thomas Berry

Thomas Berry

Before his ordination, Berry had taught at schools for the deaf in England, New York and Maryland. Berry’s ministry at the Mission Chapel included monthly services and a Sunday School class for the deaf, and he also assisted Gallaudet in ministry throughout the state as an associate of the Church Mission.

Thomas Berry left St. Paul’s in 1874, continuing his work with the deaf in Wisconsin, South Dakota and central and western New York. But Berry’s departure was not the end of St. Paul’s ministry to the deaf. That ministry lasted until 1976, spanning more than half of the time that we have been a congregation.