Category Archives: South Ferry Street Church

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 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., 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.

[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 South Ferry Street Church: Gothic, or Gothicized?

St. Paul’s, South Ferry Street

As you walk through St. Paul’s narthex, you see the engraving of our first church building, located on the northwest corner of South Ferry and Dongan Streets. Completed in 1829, the building looks quite exotic: a low, broad building with rough walls of undressed stone, wall buttresses and arched windows, topped by pinnacles and a castellated parapet. And it looked even more exotic in the first third of the nineteenth century, because it was the first Gothic church built in this city.

Following the organization of the parish in November 1827, our first vestry needed to decide where the congregation would meet. Rejecting an offer to continue meeting in an old school house, they chose to erect a new building, and appointed a committee to purchase lots for that purpose.

But what style was right for the new congregation’s first church home? Guidance was readily available in the pages of The Christian Journal and Literary Register to which a vestryman or the rector probably subscribed[i]. The Christian Journal certainly carried authority, since it was issued “under the inspection of the Right Rev. Bishop Hobart,”[ii] bishop of the Diocese of  New York, which then encompassed the entire State.

John Henry Hobart, Bishop of New York 1816-1830

In 1818, the Christian Journal republished an article from the Albany Gazette about Bishop Hobart’s consecration of Zion Church in Louisville (now Morris), Town of Butternuts, Otsego County, New York. Titled “Consecrations,” it includes this description of the building:

The Church at Butternuts, which is a substantial stout edifice, 67 by 47 feet, is of the Gothic order of architecture, with a handsome tower, and is finished in the enterior (sic) as well as exterior with much neatness and elegance. The architect, Mr. McGeorge, of Oxford, deserves much credit for the design of the building, and for the manner in which he has executed it. The Church, it is thought, affords in many respects, a finer specimen of Gothic architecture than any other Church in the state; and it is an evidence of the zeal and liberality of the congregation by whose contribution it has been erected, and an ornament to a flourishing town, which less than thirty years since was a wilderness.[iii]

Zion Church, Morris New York (credit: Doug Kerr, Wikimedia Commons)

While the Albany Gazette congratulates the architect, Bishop Hobart himself may have had a hand in Zion Church’s design as well. We know that he requested and received a sketch of the chancel layout from Horatio T. McGeorge, Jr.[iv]

Christ Church, Gardiner Maine about 1830 (credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

In 1821, following an enthusiastic description of Christ Church in Gardiner, Maine, the Christian Journal explicitly recommended its Gothic style:

We are decidedly of opinion too, that for country churches especially, and we are inclined to make the remark still more extensive, the Gothic or pointed form of architecture is the most solemn and interesting.[v]

Then, only a few months before St. Paul’s was founded, the Christian Journal repeated in full an article from an anonymous article in The Episcopal Register, a journal edited by the Rev. Benjamin Bosworth Smith. Titled “Church Edifices,” it argues for the construction of Gothic churches of stone:


Rather than build more airy and tasteful, but perishable houses, let us imitate the humble English country churches and chapels of the middle age – snug, low, Gothic structures, with massive walls of rough, unhewn stone, adorned with a few plain windows, and a decent humble tower; and calculated to accommodate the worshippers of twenty generations.[vi]

The Register article does not mention it, but B.B. Smith had personal experience with such a building. The congregation of which he was rector, St. Stephens Church in Middlebury, Vermont, had recently completed precisely such a “snug, low, Gothic” structure.

St. Stephen’s Church, Middlebury, Vermont about 1875 (Collection of the Henry Sheldon Museum, Middlebury, Vermont)

What was the attraction of these three churches to Bishop Hobart and his fellow high-churchmen? Hobart was seeking to define the young Episcopal Church, and to distinguish it from the Presbyterian and Congregational denominations that were then dominant in New York. The churches in Butternuts, Gardiner and Middlebury were strikingly different from the common Greek Revival meeting houses of the Protestant denominations. Because they were reminiscent of medieval English churches, they connected the young Episcopal Church in a new republic to a long, unbroken continuity with English tradition[vii], which in turn reached back to an idealized “apostolic and primitive church.”[viii] St. Paul’s first rector, Richard Bury, referred to this continuity in his sermon at the laying of the building’s cornerstone when he spoke of the liturgy of the Episcopal Church as “sustained by scripture and primitive usage, and by the consent and practice of the church from its earliest period down to this our own day.”[ix] Presbyterian, Reformed, Methodist and Baptist congregations could make no such claim.

Richard Bury, Rector 1827-1830

Gothic churches had one other advantage, in Hobart’s view. During the Second Great Awakening, Protestant denominations were convulsed by revivals and religious excitement. Hobart’s high-church party felt that Gothic architecture elicited feelings of solemnity, awe, reverence and wonder, consistent with an Anglican mix of thoughtful contemplation and worship. This contrast also helped set the Episcopal Church apart. [x]

Bishop Hobart, through his Christian Journal, was clearly recommending construction of a Gothic church. But what did he understand by “Gothic”? What did these three buildings look like? They were, essentially, rectangular, Georgian buildings, with such Gothic decoration as arched windows divided by mullions, buttressed stone walls, pinnacles and parapets. One commentator called two similar churches of the period in the mid-Atlantic states “crisp essays in neoclassicism Gothicized,” and the style “premature Gothic”;[xi] others have referred to them as pseudo-Gothic Revival. In this period, Gothic details alone were considered sufficient for a building to be seen as “Gothic.”[xii]

In 1827, the Gothic revival in church architecture had just begun. This was almost a decade before the publication of John Henry HopkinsEssay on Gothic Architecture (1836), which first made detailed plans of medieval English churches available in North America. And St. Paul’s vestry was making their decision two decades before the formation of the New York Ecclesiological Society (1848), which encouraged Gothic church design throughout the diocese.[xiii]

St. Paul’s, Troy, New York

We have no record of the discussions that led to the design of the South Ferry Street building. The vestry knew of Bishop Hobart’s preferences, and may have seen one or more of the three models of which he approved. They might also have seen the only local example, St. Paul’s, Troy, which was still under construction, and said to be based upon the design of Ithiel Town’s Trinity, New Haven.[xiv] Or perhaps they had heard of the another H.T. McGeorge church, the recently-completed St. Luke’s Church, Rochester.

St. Luke’s Church, Rochester New York

Our vestry must have discussed these examples with local architect Philip Hooker,[xv] whom they hired to produce a design. It is unlikely that Hooker recommended this style, because it differs sharply with other churches that he was working on this period, most of them Presbyterian or Reformed Church meeting houses, relying primarily on Greek Revival touches.[xvi]

According to a description written shortly after the building was erected:

The design is from an ancient Gothic temple. The width of the main body of the building is fifty-six feet by eighty-five long; fronted with a semi octagonal vestibule of thirty-two feet diameter, with a corresponding roof rising into the front pediment of the main roof. The walls of the whole building are of unwrought stone 3 ½ feet thick in the basement — the upper walls two feet. There are five windows on each side, and two in front supported by center reeds, diverging at the head, so as to form three distinct gothic arches to the casements and frames of each window. The mullions are diagonally disposed and contain glass of 5 ¼ inches square. The angles of the walls and the partition wall at the landing of the gallery stairs, are supported by buttresses of two feet square having in each three abatements coped with cut stone, and surmounted with quadrangular Gothic pinnacles. The eaves finished with a deep Gothic frieze and cornice, and the parapet carried up in the form of battlements.

There are niches in the right and left angles of the entrance way, prepared for statuary. The front door is ten feet wide, on each side of which are columns supporting the arch of a window above the impost of the door. The eaves of the vestibule roof are finished with a cornice and chainwork, and the angles surmounted with pinnacles.[xvii]

One element now common in churches is missing from this description: there was not a cross to be seen on the building’s exterior. In the early 19th century, crosses were considered “Popish,” and were seen only on Catholic churches. In 1834, George Washington Doane[xviii], bishop of New Jersey and rector of St. Mary’s Church in Burlington New Jersey, placed a cross atop the parish’s newly-renovated building, the congregation objected vehemently, and persons unknown sawed the cross off in the middle of the night. While the cross was immediately replaced, this incident clearly shows the attitude to its display among the Episcopal laity in this period.[xix]

Notice also that, while the windows are arched, they contain plain glass. Stained glass in North American church windows was not known in this period.[xx] True stained glass, using medieval techniques, only dates from William Jay Bolton’s work at the Church of the Holy Trinity, Brooklyn, in 1847.[xxi]

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

The design of St. Paul’s church on South Ferry Street follows the recommendations endorsed by Bishop Hobart. As recommended by the anonymous author of the Vermont article, the exterior was built of undressed stone, the proportions broad and low, with a tower to be placed at its rear.[xxii] While it does not look like an English parish church of the middle ages, it does have the Gothic touches which impressed contemporaries, who judged that “[t]he whole building may be considered as a fine specimen of Gothic architecture.”[xxiii] And it certainly would have stood out among other churches in Albany when it was completed in 1829.

South Ferry Street Building, March 2019

The building still stands on South Ferry Street, now used as the Equinox Youth Shelter. As it is now, with the tower never built, and shorn since 1910 of its vestibule and all of its Gothic trim, it is hard to recognize as Gothic. While to 20th century observers the building “may appear poorly proportioned and awkwardly composed,”[xxiv] let us look at it as St. Paul’s first congregation may have seen it. Of similar pseudo-Gothic churches in Connecticut, Gretchen Buggeln has written:

Even the most ‘Gothic’ of Connecticut Episcopal churches of the period, Trinity and St. Paul’s in New Haven, and Christ Church in Hartford, to our eyes look more or less like rectangular boxes with spires in front – not so different from neighboring Congregational meetinghouses. Yet their stone construction and Gothic ornament made them seem wholly different to contemporary viewers: dark mysterious, substantial, and even historically accurate. Rather than critique these structures for falling short of ‘true’ English Gothic, we should wonder why New England Episcopalians clung so tenaciously to this style in the early national period, how they changed it, and how they made it their own.[xxv] [italics in original]


[i] In December 1827, The Christian Journal printed letter from an anonymous St. Paul’s vestryman announcing the congregation’s organization. “St. Paul’s Church, Albany,” Christian Journal and Literary Register, volume XI, number 12 (December 1827), 376-377.

[ii] An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church,, accessed 29 Jan 2019.

[iii] “Consecrations,” Christian Journal and Literary Register, volume II, number 22 (November 1818), 352. I have been unable to locate the original Albany Gazette article.

[iv] 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.

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

[vi] “Church Edifices,” Christian Journal and Literary Register, volume XI, number 5 (May 1827), 135-136. This was originally published as “Church Edifices,” Episcopal Register (Middlebury, Vermont), volume 2 (March 1827), 41-42.

[vii] Robert Bruce Mullin, Episcopal Vision/American Reality (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986), 76-77.

[viii] John Henry Hobart, “The Churchman,” in A Word for the Church: Consisting of “The Churchman,” and “The High Churchman Vindicated,” (Boston: Stimpson and Clapp, 1832), 13.

[ix] “St. Paul’s Church – Rev. Mr. Bury’s Address,” Christian Journal and Literary Register, volume XII, number 9 (September 1828), 286. This is a copy of “St. Paul’s Church, Albany” published in the 12 Jul 1828 issue of The Gospel Messenger, published in Auburn, New York by Bishop Hobart’s friend John C. Rudd. On the Gospel Messenger and Rudd’s connection with Hobart, see “Origins of the Episcopal Church Press From Colonial Days to 1840,” Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Vol. 11, No. 3 (September, 1942), 201-318.

[x] Gretchen Townsend Buggeln, Temples of Grace: The Material Transformation of Connecticut’s Churches, 1790-1840 (Hanover: University Press of New England, 2003), 112.

[xi] Phoebe B. Stanton, The Gothic Revival & American Church Architecture: An Episode in Taste 1840 – 1856 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1968), 220.

[xii] Ryan K. Smith, Gothic Arches, Latin Crosses (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 88-89.

[xiii] See Stanton’s chapter “The New York Ecclesiological Society and Its Journal.” The Society’s architect, Frank Wills, designed Albany’s Church of the Holy Innocents (1850) and Grace Church (1852).

[xiv] Bishop Hobart knew Trinity Church, Hartford well, since he had consecrated the building in 1818.

[xv] Philip Hooker had a personal connection to the congregation as well: his parents, Samuel and Rachel Hooker, became communicants at St. Paul’s in the late summer of 1830, one year after the building their son had designed was consecrated.

[xvi] Douglas G. Bucher, W. Richard Wheeler, Mary Raddant Tomlan, A Neat plain modern stile: Philip Hooker and his contemporaries, 1796-1836 (Clinton, N.Y.: Trustees of Hamilton College, 1993). Meeting houses listed ther are: Hamilton College Chapel (p. 203), First Presbyterian Church, Utica (p. 211), Niskayuna Reformed Church (p. 233), Fourth Presbyterian Church, Albany (p. 251). The only other Hooker church in the period was Roman Catholic, St. Mary’s, Albany (p. 258), also with a very plain Greek Revival facade.

[xvii] “St. Paul’s Church,” Albany Gazette 25 Aug 1829.

[xviii] Father of William Croswell Doane, the first bishop of the Diocese of Albany.

[xix] Smith, 51-52.

[xx] William Wilson Manross, The Episcopal Church in the United States 1800 – 1840: A Study in Church Life (New York: AMS Press, 1967), 145-146.On the adoption of the cross and stained glass as part of the Gothic Revival, see Smith’s chapters on “The Cross,” 51-82 and “The Gothic,” 83-117.

[xxi] Willene B. Clark, “America’s First Stained Glass: William Jay Bolton’s Windows at the Church of the Holy Trinity, Brooklyn, New York,” The American Art Journal, vol. 11, no. 4 (October 1979), 32-53. The first authentic stained glass in Albany was created by Bolton’s brother, John Bolton for the Church of the Holy Innocents in 1850 (Willene Clark, 34.)

[xxii] Letters About the Hudson River and Its Vicinity (New York: Freeman Hunt & Co., 1837), 148.

[xxiii] “St. Paul’s Church,” Albany Gazette 25 Aug 1829.

[xxiv] Bucher et al., 242.

[xxv] Buggeln, 111.