Category Archives: Wm. Ingraham Kip

The Albany Theatre Becomes the Home of St. Paul’s Church

As we saw in our earlier post, the first period for the Albany Theatre ended with Henry W. Preston’s surrender of the lease to the Albany Theatre Association on April 1, 1839. Fifteen managers in almost as many years had staged the best of drama with some of the finest actors of the time, but none was able to consistently make money for the investors. The Association chose to sell, and found an unusual purchaser. Just as had happened with the Green Street Theatre earlier in the century, the Albany Theatre was sold to a church, St. Paul’s Episcopal.

St. Paul’s, Ferry Street

In February 1839, St. Paul’s was a dozen years old, but like the theater, had never been able to find financial security. Founded in 1827, the congregation had moved two years later into their new building on South Ferry Street. In this period, Albany was growing rapidly as a result of the completion of the Erie Canal. Trade on the canal brought in many new residents, and the South End was the area of most rapid growth. St. Paul’s was something of an experiment: the hope was that the new congregation could attract St. Peter’s parishioners who had moved to the South End, but also draw residents of the area who were unchurched. This plan would only work if those attracted were able to support the church by purchasing a pew and paying an additional annual pew rent. At that time, this was the most common way of supporting a church.

Diagram of Ferry Street Church, showing pew appraisals

The new church building was quite expensive, and the vestry went deep into debt, assuming that they would be able to pay the principal and interest as new members purchased pews. But the expected influx of new residents did not occur, and those newcomers who did join were not able to purchase pews. St. Paul’s found itself on the underpopulated edge of the city, with pews not paid for, and unable to pay its creditors. The congregation struggled for several years, but the crisis came in January 1839, when a court ordered them to sell the building in order to pay the creditors.

We do not know if St. Paul’s vestry had another option, but we do wonder why they chose a new site only three short blocks from St. Peter’s Church, the other Episcopal Church in the city of Albany. In the same January 24 vestry meeting at which the decision was made to sell the Ferry Street building, the vestry also agreed to obtain a right of refusal for purchase of the theater. And they took the first steps toward modifying the theater by hiring Henry Rector “to draw plans and estimate expenses of alterations necessary to convert the Theatre into a Church.” A month later, the vestry closed the sale on the theater, and approved plans by Rector to convert the building for use as a church.[i]

And so St. Paul’s moved from one Philip Hooker-designed building (the Ferry Street church) to another (the Albany Theatre). This was doubly appropriate, because Hooker’s parents had been among the earliest communicants of St. Paul’s.[ii]

At the sale of the building, the Albany Theatre Association turned over all the original stock certificates to St. Paul’s. The association also provided the congregation (for reasons that are not clear) with a “Schedule containing a list of Scenery &c in the Theatre belonging to the proprietors.”

Booklet documenting sale of Albany Theatre stock to St. Paul’s Church

With sale of the Ferry Street building in July, St. Paul’s had no place to meet. The congregation of St. Peter’s invited the homeless congregation to join with them during the interim, and the two congregations met together for the next eight months, with the two rectors, William Ingraham Kip and Horatio Potter, sharing clerical responsibilities. This was the second time the congregations had share ministers. The first was 1832, when St. Paul’s rector, William Linn Keese, also served St. Peter’s, when it was between rectors.

Trinity Church (image credit: Albany Group Archive)

But the entire congregation did not leave the South End. In a major split, a number of St. Paul’s families, including those of several vestry members, chose to stay in the South End and continue faithful to the original purpose. They formed a new congregation, to be known as 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 closed in about 1980.[iii]

As to the modifications necessary, Dr. Kip remembered later that “there was nothing left of the original edifice, but the four walls and roof.”[iv] The extent of the modifications is confirmed by a 14-page proposal in our archive (probably the Henry Rector plan), with detailed description of the modifications, beginning with the statement:

To accomplish the object intended, it will be necessary first to remove all the floors, partitions, boxes, seats & etc. in the interior of said building; leaving the whole area enclosed by the exterior walls from the cellar to the [word illegible] of the principal tie beams in one unencumbered space and then proceed to the construction of the walls, partitions, floors, galleries, seats, pulpit, chancel, ceilings and rooms for sextons & etc. as shown by the annexed plans.

Given the congregation’s financial condition, there were limits to what could be done. They were not able, for instance, to afford stained glass for the windows, and had to settle for “common ground glass.”[v]

St. Paul’s was, however, able to afford a new organ, replacing the instrument sold with the Ferry Street building. Negotiations began in early 1839, and by May of that year, the New York City musical instrument dealer Firth and Hall had agreed to liberal financing. This instrument, designed and built by Thomas Robjohn, under contract with Firth and Hall, was installed in September 1840.[vi]

The women of the parish also raised money to purchase communion chalices and paten that are still in use at St. Paul’s.[vii]

One of the chalices purchased in 1839

The extensive renovations took longer than expected. The congregation initially expected to be in the new building by November 1839[viii], but the renovations were not completed until February of the next year.

The remodeled building was consecrated by Benjamin Treadwell Onderdonk, Bishop of New York. The event had originally been scheduled for February 21, but “in consequence of the state of the roads” the bishop was not able to reach the city, and it was postponed until February 22.

A newspaper account of the consecration describes the renovated building:

We have heard but one opinion of the interior of this spacious edifice. Without pretension to architectural display, the effect is nevertheless admirable – and the arrangement and rich but chaste finish, well adapted to the sacred uses to which the building is now appropriated.[ix]

This account concludes with the reminder that the sale of pews would begin the next day. St. Paul’s continued to fund itself by the sale and rental of pews, and would for the next 80 years. It was not until 1927 that St. Paul’s did away with pew rents, despite a growing consensus in the denomination that pledged contributions were a much better option for supporting a congregation.

Pew Deed to William M. Gregory, dated 1 Jun 1854

While the choice of a theater so close to St. Peter’s seems odd, the vestry’s selection was a happy one, because the congregation flourished on South Pearl Street. Despite the closeness to St. Peter’s, the building’s location was an advantage. In the 1830’s, Pearl Street was one of the most prestigious residential areas of the city, and many neighbors became members of the new congregation. Barent P. Staats, a member of the 1827 vestry, described the situation in 1839 forcefully: “it [the church] was discovered shortly after the present [i.e., present rector, William Ingraham Kip] came to be hopelessly wrecked and it was absolutely necessary to take a new position & in reality to begin a new enterprise.”[x] Indeed it was a new enterprise. Rather than attempting to attract newcomers, as did those who broke off to form Trinity Church, St. Paul’s was now situated to attract Albany’s better class. As J. Livingston Reese, St. Paul’s rector 25 years later wrote: “It is most probable that this change of location saved the parish from ultimate extinguishment, and brought it where it could reach a larger and more influential part of the population.”[xi]

1858 receipt from the Albany Insurance Company on St. Paul’s South Pearl Street building

A later rector said:

I do not think it too much to say, that it was while St. Paul’s congregation worshipped in the edifice on South Pearl street, that it attained its greatest influence and distinction. This was practically during the long and brilliant rectorship of the Rev. Dr. William Ingraham Kip, who became rector in 1827 [actually 1837] and remained at the head of the parish until 1853.[xii]

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

Kip left St. Paul’s in 1853 to become missionary bishop of California. He was succeeded by two very strong leaders: Thomas A. Starkey (later Bishop of Newark, New Jersey) and William Rudder (subsequently long-term rector of St. Stephen’s, Philadelphia). Kip and Rudder were particularly known for their dynamic preaching, which attracted many new members.[xiii] Starkey was known for his pastoral skills, and for his interest in social outreach, including the creation of St. Paul’s Church Home for Women.

Thomas A. Starkey

During these years, the new Robjohn organ was presided over by a series of remarkable musicians: William L. Reston[xiv], Oliver J. Shaw[xv], John Underner[xvi], and William M. Daniell[xvii].

In a letter to the editor of the Albany Evening Journal, an Albanian signing himself “A Listener” provided this review of one of St. Paul’s services in its first year on Pearl Street:

I last evening had the pleasure of attending services in St. Paul’s Church, and I confess myself highly pleased with the whole service. Mr. Kip gave us a very highly finished sermon, at the same time calculated to carry conviction to the conscience of every individual. His was was “the second coming of our Lord to judge the world,” and the solemnity of the scene was heightened by the impressive manner of the speaker.

The organ (which by the way is one of the finest I ever listened to), was handled in an admirable manner by Mr. Shaw, a gentleman who stands deservedly high as an organist. The rich full chords, the perfect harmony, the ease and grace of the movement, spoke the master of the instrument. On the whole, the prospects of the church are flattering as could be wished, and the congregation are highly favored with the privilege of such religious instruction.[xviii]

This series culminated with George William Warren[xix], St. Paul’s most illustrious organist and choirmaster of the nineteenth century.

Rock of Ages by George William Warren

We have very few descriptions of the building’s interior in this period. One is most unflattering:

To the Wardens & Vestry of St. Paul’s
Church, Albany —
Gentlemen, —

When I purchased the pew in your Church, I was assured that a window would be opened at the north end of it. At present on a cloudy day or when an assemblage of darkly dressed persons are in front of us, you might as well attempt to read in a coal-hole. The pew will no longer answer us and I therefore return your deed on which I have paid my first instalment. You will probably be of my opinion that some portion of it may be & ought to be refunded to me.

Remaining Gentlemen

Your obt. Servant

Charles Smyth[xx]
Albany 8th January

We also have a brief description from one of the choirboys in George William Warren’s short-lived boy choir. Writing more than fifty years later, Charles M. Nickerson remembered that the boys sat in the organ loft, with the organ to their right and the quartet choir on the other side.

When the sermon began, it was our wont to draw the curtain that hung over the front of the organ gallery and then slip out one by one by the door behind the organ into the Sunday School room, there to regale ourselves on candy and peanuts and enjoy general conversation until a signal from the choirmaster [George William Warren] called us back for the offertory hymn. This was in the old St. Paul’s the one time theatre on South Pearl St. The Sunday School room in the rear of the organ loft had no doubt served as the lobby or bar of the theatre.[xxi]

George William Warren

The “organ loft and and north room” are again mentioned in vestry minutes in 1858, when major renovations were made “fitting up and arranging the organ loft and north room with carpets, gas, painting, gilding and decorating for the convenience of the musical director and the choir” as part of the May 1857 negotiations to rehire George William Warren for his final three years at St. Paul’s. These expenses contributed to the church’s budget shortfall, requiring the next year a plea from the vestry for pew-owners to increase their pew rental.

By 1860, the advantages of the Pearl Street location had faded. The neighborhood had changed from largely residential to commercial. The vestry determined to look elsewhere in the city and sold the Pearl Street building.

William Rudder, rector at that time later remembered:

The old church had served its purpose, and its day of fullest usefulness was gone. The part of the city in which it was situated had completely changed its character within a few years. The church had become hemmed in by places of business, and by other surroundings of a very undesirable character; and the congregation was drifting away, and more and more each year, to the more desirable western portions of the city. Under these circumstances the vestry determined to build a new church edifice to meet the new conditions of the case, and one more worthy of the position and ability of the parish.[xxii]

William Rudder

In October 1862 the building was sold for $14,000 to Hugh J. Hastings, who a yer later leased it to theater architect John M. Trimble.[xxiii] In our next segment, we will follow the building’s history as Trimble makes the church once more a theater: the Academy of Music.

[i] Joel Munsell, The Annals of Albany, Series 2, Volume 3 (Albany: Joel Munsell, 1871), 338-339.

[ii] Samuel Hooker (1746-1832) and Rachel Hinds Hooker became communicants of St. Paul’s in July and August 1830 respectively. The couple moved to Utica, New York in 1832.

[iii] Joel Munsell, The Annals of Albany, Series 2, Volume 3 (Albany: Joel Munsell, 1871), 337-394.

[iv] John Edward Rawlinson, “William Ingraham Kip: Tradition, Conflict and Transition” (Ph.D. dissertation, Graduate Theological Union, 1982), 18, quoting a 9 Apr 1852 letter from Kip to Thomas N. Stanford, partner in the publishing firm of Stanford & Swords.

[v] Rawlinson, 18.

[vi] Albany Argus 4 Sep 1840. Correspondence and the bill of sale are held in the archives of St. Paul’s Church.

[vii] Rawlinson, 18, quoting a 29 Oct 1839 letter from Kip to Mr. Sherman.

[viii] Parochial report for St. Paul’s, Albany in Journal of the Proceedings of the Fifty-fifth Convention of the Diocese of New York: Held in St. Paul’s Chapel in the City of New-York on Thursday, October 3d and Friday, Oct. 4th, A.D. 1839 (New York: Printed for the Convention), 1839, 67. A vestryman, Simeon DeWitt Bloodgood, had also hoped that the congregation would be in the new building by fall (Bloodgood’s 30 Mar 1839 letter to Harmanus Bleecker, transcribed in Harriet Langdon Pruyn Rice, Harmanus Bleecker: An Albany Dutchman 1779-1849 (Albany: William Boyd, 1924), 187-188).

[ix] Albany Argus, 25 Feb 1840.

[x] St. Paul’s vestry minutes, volume 2, 77.

[xi] “Historical Sketch of St. Paul’s Parish: From a Sermon of the Rector,” in The Semi-centennial Services of St. Paul’s Church, Albany, N.Y. 1877 (Albany: The Argus Company, 1877), 13.

[xii] William Prall, “The Past, Present and Future: A Sermon Preached January 26th, 1902 in Commemoration of the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Founding of the Parish of St. Paul’s, Albany, N.Y.,” 4.

[xiii] Brooks, “Sermon delivered by the Reverend Roelif Hasbrouck Brooks on Sunday morning, November 17th, 1907, in commemoration of the Eightieth Anniversary of the Founding of St. Paul’s Parish in the City of Albany,” printed in St. Paul’s Year Book for 1907, pages 7-8.

[xiv] St. Paul’s organist 1839-1840. Born about 1811 in England. Organist at St. John’s Church, Kirkheaton, West Yorkshire. Teacher at the Albany Female Academy.

[xv] St. Paul’s organist intermittently between 1840 and 1847. Born about 1817 in Providence, Rhode Island, son of noted composer Oliver Shaw. Active there and in Bangor Maine. Music teacher, performer and composer of popular music in Albany 1841-1852 or later. Moved Utica where he was again active as performer and teacher until his death in 1861

[xvi] St. Paul’s organist 1846-1847. Born 1829 in Albany, member of a prestigious musical family. Composer, accompanist to Jenny Lind on her United States tour. Died 1904.

[xvii] St. Paul’s organist and choirmaster 1847-1848. Born 1811 in England, educated at the Royal College of Music, accomplished horn player as well as organist. Died 24 Aug 1892 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

[xviii] Albany Evening Journal, 21 Dec 1840. City directories from 1858 – 1860 show a number of wholesale and retail groceries in the block. One neighbor “of a very undesirable character” was the Empire House on the corner on South Pearl and Beaver, with 42 guest rooms that seem to have been particularly favored by actors, and a “lager beer saloon” on the first floor.

[xix] St. Paul’s organist and choirmaster 1848-1856 and 1857-1860.

[xx] Charles Smyth (1783-1844) was a St. Paul’s vestryman for a single year (1835), possibly serving out another’s unexpired term. He had earlier served for ten years on St. Peter’s vestry. Smyth was in business in Albany with James Byrne, doing business as Byrne & Smyth, “vendue and commission business” as early as 1803. Later he was in partnership with James Wood (as Wood & Smyth), dissolved 1814. In 1818 (seven years before completion of the Erie Canal), he was assuring transportation of goods to the upper Great Lakes (Detroit and Sandusky) “by the most faithful and experienced teamsters” for no more than $4.50 per hundred-weight. Later he was involved in shipping, both in steam-boats on the Hudson River, and on the Erie Canal.

[xxi] Charles M. Nickerson, “St. Paul’s Choir of Fifty Years Ago” pages 25-26 of St. Paul’s Year Book for 1907. Is Nickerson perhaps referring to the second floor saloon, or the third floor area for refreshments mentioned in Hooker’s description of the theater?

[xxii] “Sermon of the Rev. William Rudder, D.D.,” in The Semi-centennial Services of St. Paul’s Church, Albany, N.Y. 1877 (Albany: The Argus Company, 1877), 35-36.

[xxiii] “An Academy of Music,” Albany Morning Express 13 Oct 1863. “Fire This Morning,” Albany Evening Journal 29 Jan 1868.  H.P. Phelps (in The Players of a Century. Albany: Joseph McDonough, 1880, pages 329-330) reports that Hastings sold the building to Trimble for $5,000 cash and a mortgage of $10,000. This cannot be correct. When the building was destroyed in 1868, Hastings was still the owner, with Trimble’s widow holding a ten year lease, with a right to purchase in five years.

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)


Albany and the New York Times

Would you be surprised to learn that the plan to create the New York Times was made here in the city of Albany? And that two of the three principals involved were then members of St. Paul’s vestry? Well, both statements are true, and here is the story.

Albany in 1848

Albany Harbor in 1856 (credit: Albany Group Archive)

The Albany in which the plan for the New York Times was hatched was a bustling place, sitting at the crucial intersection of the Erie Canal and the Hudson River. Goods from the American Midwest flowed into Albany through the Erie, Champlain and Oswego canals, and were transferred at the canal basin for shipment to New York City. This flow supported large numbers of wholesale and retail businesses. According to the 1840 census, Albany had 53 commission house, 35 importing houses, 440 retail dry goods stores, 612 grocery and provision stores. And because those goods had to be paid for, there was also a busy financial connection between Albany and New York City, already then the financial center of the country. Albany’s population was also growing quickly: from 24,000 in 1830, the population had reached almost 34,000 by 1840 and would exceed 50,000 by 1850.

Albany Basin in the 1850s (credit: Albany Group Archive)

St. Paul’s vestry elected in 1848 was representative of this thriving business environment. The two wardens were businessmen with ties across the state and region: William H. DeWitt, a dealer in lumber, and John Tweddle, a malt and hops merchant. Both of these businesses involved major trade across the state and throughout the region, and an especially strong connection with New York City. Two of the vestrymen were also major businessmen. Four vestryman were involved in banking and finance; only two were professionals (one a doctor, the other an attorney).

Bank Note Brokers

Of the four vestrymen involved in banking and finance, two were bank note brokers. At that time, regional banks could issue paper currency. Currency issued by Albany banks was accepted at full value here, but only at a reduced value in New York City; the reverse was true for currency issued by New York City banks. Bank note brokers made their money by buying Albany bank notes at a discount in New York City and carrying them back to Albany where they were redeemed at full value; they could then purchase New York City bank notes at a discount in Albany, and redeem them at full value in New York City. One of our vestrymen reported routinely carrying $20,000 in cash on the steamboats between the cities in this operation.

These two bank note brokers, members of our vestry, were Edward B. Wesley and George Jones. Both were New Englanders, both born in 1811, who had come to Albany for business. And it is they who were instrumental in establishing the New York Times.

Edward Barton Wesley

Edward Barton Wesley

Born in Leicester, Massachusetts, Wesley came to New York City as a young man. He found employment with a steamboat line that ran between New York City and Albany and quickly learned that he could make extra money by speculating in goods (fish, butter, eggs, vegetables, “nearly everything in the market”) in the New York markets, and shipping them to Albany where he sold the produce for a profit. From this beginning, he moved into brokering bank notes. By 1845, he had set up a brokerage partnership in Albany with Norman S. Washburn. That same year, he was elected to St. Paul’s vestry for the first time.

George Jones

George Jones

Jones was born and raised in East Poultney, Vermont. As a teenager, he worked as a clerk and errand boy in a local grocery store. There Jones became friends with Horace Greeley, who was a printer’s apprentice in a newspaper operated by the owner of the grocery store. Like Wesley, Jones went to New York City as a young man. After other business experience, in 1841 he found employment with his friend Horace Greeley, working in the business office of Greeley’s New York Tribune. Here he met Greeley’s editorial assistant, Henry Jarvis Raymond, who was destined to become the third principal in the founding of the New York Times.

In 1842, George Jones moved to Albany, at first running the Albany News Depot, a news agency selling newspapers from New York City and other major cities of the United States and England, as well as magazines and books. In about 1847, he sold the News Depot, and started brokering bank notes, using a desk in the offices of Edward. B. Wesley. It was shortly after this that Jones was elected to St. Paul’s vestry for the first time. Jones had several personal connections to members of St. Paul’s: he also rented office space from Leonard Kip (a member of the church, and brother of William Ingraham Kip), and one of his closest friends was banker Edward E. Kendrick, our treasurer and a member of our vestry.

All Three in Albany in 1850

So, by January 1850, both Wesley and Jones were in Albany, working as bank note brokers in the same office, and serving on St. Paul’s vestry (they were both reelected in April 1850) and the vestry’s finance committee. Jones’ former colleague Henry J. Raymond was also in Albany, having recently arrived as a newly elected member of the New York State Assembly.

New York State Capitol, 1860 (credit: Albany Group Archive)

Jones and Raymond had discussed creating their own newspaper during their time together on the Tribune in 1841 – 1842, but nothing had come of these plans. Thurlow Weed, politically powerful owner of the Albany Evening Journal, had offered to sell his newspaper to Jones and Raymond in 1848; that offer fell through when one of Weed’s partners refused to sell his shares. Jones and Raymond again discussed the newspaper idea during the legislative session of 1850, but the time seems not to have been right.

Across the Icy Hudson in 1851

The plans only became concrete in early 1851, with Raymond again in Albany, in this legislative session having been elected Speaker of the House. There are two stories about how the discussions were renewed, and both involve a walk across the ice-covered Hudson River, from Albany to the Hudson River Railroad station in Rensselaer.

Across the Icy Hudson (1850)

According to one account, Jones and Raymond were walking across the Hudson to meet Raymond’s father’s train. “When half way over,” Raymond again suggested a new newspaper. Jones responded that he was doing well in his bank note business. Raymond pointed out that a bill was pending in the Assembly which would make the business far less profitable and suggested (jokingly, perhaps) that it would be in his interest to see that the bill passed, if it would encourage Jones to join in his venture.

According to the other account, it was Jones and Wesley who were crossing the Hudson in order to buy copies of the New York newspapers when Jones asked Wesley to join him in his plans with Raymond.

Founding of the New York Times

Whatever the sequence of events, the bill on bank note brokers did pass, and both Wesley and Jones joined Raymond. The original partnership was known as Raymond, Jones & Co., with Jones and Wesley each putting up $20,000 in cash to begin production. The company’s Articles of Incorporation were signed by Raymond, Jones and Wesley. The first issue of the new newspaper, then known as the New York Daily Times, was issued on September 18, 1851, with Henry J. Raymond as editor, and George Jones as business manager.

First edition New York Daily Times, 18 Sep 1851

Jones’ and Wesley’s later roles at the New York Times and St. Paul’s Church

When Jones resigned after only six weeks’ due to bad health, Edward B. Wesley became the Times business manager, and served in that role for most of the newspaper’s first ten years. At the end of his long life, he was angered that Jones was given more credit than he as a founder of the newspaper. Jones, he argued, may have had a larger role in the initial founding, but he (Raymond) was the one who built it up over a decade and ensured its survival.

Edward B. Wesley was on St. Paul’s vestry for a total of seven years, from Easter 1845 until Easter 1852. He lived the rest of his life in New York City, and died there in 1906 at the age of 95, his obituary in the New York Times describing him as “The Dean of the Speculators.” He would be pleased to know that it also gave him full credit as a founder of the Times, as well as the Union Trust Company.

George Jones

After his resignation, George Jones was not involved with the newspaper for many years. When Raymond died suddenly in 1869, however, he returned to the Times and was its publisher for twenty years.

As long-time publisher of the New York Times, Jones deserves considerable credit for its success. In 1870 – 1871, he supported and encouraged the Times’ investigative journalism into the abuses of Tammany Hall. Jones refused a bribe of $5 million (the equivalent of well over $100 million today) by the city controller, Richard B. “Slippery Dick” Connolly, to stop the attacks.

Thomas Nast cartoon, showing Richard B. Connolly and William M. Tweed

George Jones was on St. Paul’s vestry for a total of eight years, from Easter 1848 until
Easter 1856. He also lived the rest of his life in New York City, and died there in 1891.


Although Wesley and Jones were not Albany natives, and lived here for less than twenty years, we can take pride in  the role our city played in bringing them together in business and in the vestry room of St. Paul’s Church. The next time you pick up a copy of the New York Times, remember the thriving business, financial and social connections between the city of Albany and New York City in the 1850s that brought the newspaper into being.


From St. Paul’s Church to San Quentin: the Life of William Henry Hill

William Ingraham Kip (portrait attributed to Asa Weston Twitchell )

In his first decade as rector of St. Paul’s, William Ingraham Kip saw three young man enter the ministry from the congregation. We have already spoken of Sylvanus Reed, but the first of these three was William Henry Hill, who was not only an active member of the congregation, but also followed Kip to California. How Hill came to serve eight years at San Quentin Prison is only one of the fascinating things about this son of St. Paul’s Church.

William H. Hill was born in Connecticut in 1816, and came to Albany at age 15. He became a communicant of St. Paul’s in 1839, shortly after Kip arrived here as rector. Hill was soon busy in the life of the parish, particularly as “chorister” (then used to mean the leader of the church choir) intermittently from 1841 until 1845, while the organist was composer Oliver J. Shaw. He also represented the congregation at diocesan conventions in 1844 (during the contentious discussion of the fate of disgraced Bishop Benjamin T. Onderdonk) and again in 1846. During this period, he worked as a reporter and assistant editor for the Albany Evening Journal, owned and edited by the powerful Whig politician Thurlow Weed.

William Henry Hill

William H. Hill became a candidate for ordination in 1844, and was ordained deacon in 1846 and priest the next year. His first pastoral assignment was St. Paul’s, Brownville (Jefferson County, New York), where he served from 1846 until 1851. Interestingly, the Brownville church’s first rector was William Linn Keese, who was also the second rector of St. Paul’s, Albany. William H. Hill was then rector at Zion Church, Morris (Otsego County, New York) from 1851 until 1855.

California Clipper advertisement (image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

William Ingraham Kip was elected Missionary Bishop of California in late 1853. A year later, William H. Hill followed him to the far distant west, which was still in the throes of the Gold Rush of 1849—1855.

Nevada City, California about 1856 (image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Initially he served the church in Nevada City, and next was rector of Grace Church, Sacramento (where he also served several terms as superintendent of the city schools) from 1856 until 1871. His final parish assignment was at St. Athanasius, Los Angeles from approximately 1874 until 1881.





William H. Hill (San Francisco Chronicle 28 Oct 1896)

Have you been worrying about how Hill came to serve time at San Quentin? Well, you can relax, because he was definitely on the right side of the bars. William H. Hill was chaplain at San Quentin from 1881 until 1889. After a few years as a traveling missionary, he retired to Berkeley, where he died in 1896.

San Quentin Prison (image credit: Wikimedia Commons)




Mr. Starkey’s “high-church notions” divide St. Paul’s

William Ingraham Kip’s year-long medical leave (1844-1845) worked well for him and for the people of St. Paul’s: he returned in good health, and spent another eight years as our rector. Today’s post is the story of his successor’s medical leave, which ended badly and precipitated a crisis that almost destroyed the congregation.

When Kip resigned in December 1853, the vestry named as his successor Thomas Alfred Starkey, then the rector of Christ Church, in Troy, New York. Starkey arrived in February 1854. Fourteen months later, in April 1855, Starkey submitted his resignation because of ill health. He withdrew it “at the urgent request of the congregation.”[i] Then again, three years later, in April 1858, Starkey submitted his resignation because of ill health. This time, the vestry offered him a six-month leave of absence. Starkey accepted, and traveled to Europe.

Thomas A. Starkey

Thomas A. Starkey

Previous histories end the narrative neatly, if not happily: Starkey returns from his leave in early October 1858, announces that his health is still fragile and again submits his resignation. The vestry reluctantly accepts the resignation, and a few months later announces the call of the new rector, William Rudder. This is the account given in a 1877 sketch of the congregation’s history[ii], and followed by all historical essays since that time. The vestry minutes support this version, containing only their offer of a leave of absence, followed by his resignation in November.

But this neat version is incomplete, and hides the story of a significant dispute within the congregation that tells us much about the church and the times. To understand it, we need to return to the long, successful tenure of William Ingraham Kip. In his farewell sermon at St. Paul’s, preached December 11, 1853, he said:

We have Brethern (sic) been at peace among ourselves. There has been no party strife within our borders, even among the exciting times which for some years marked our church; but Pastor and People have been in one mind in all that concerns the welfare and progress of the Church. It is to this that we owe our prosperity and Oh remember Brethern (sic) that so it must always be, if you would not decline and relapse into feebleness.

The “exciting times” to which he refers was the period of the 1830s and 1840s, when the English Oxford Movement’s “Tracts for the Times” were distributed in the United States. As the Episcopal Church sought to balance its theology in light of renewed interest in Catholic theology and liturgy, Kip wrote a series of lectures which he presented at St. Paul’s on Sunday evenings in the winter of 1843 and later published as The Double Witness of the Church. The lectures, relying on both scripture and tradition, distinguished the American Episcopal Church from the protestant denominations on one side and the Roman Catholic Church on the other. As Kip wrote in the Preface:

[The author] believes that this work will be found to differ somewhat in its plan, from most of those on the claims of our Church, which are intended for popular reading. They are generally written with reference merely to the Protestant denominations around us. The public mind, however, has lately taken a new direction, and the doctrines of the Church of Rome have again become a subject of discussion. The writer has therefore endeavored to draw the line between these two extremes – showing that the Church bears her DOUBLE WITNESS against them both – and points out a middle path as the one of truth and safety.[iii]

John Henry Hobart, Bishop of New York 1816-1830

John Henry Hobart, Bishop of New York 1816-1830

The Tractarians had little influence on Kip, who saw their works as supporting the high church theology to which he already subscribed. The Double Witness, while occasioned by the Tractarian controversy, restates the position of Kip’s mentor, Bishop John Henry Hobart, who summarized his theology when he wrote “My banner is, EVANGELICAL TRUTH, APOSTOLIC ORDER.”[iv]

Thomas A. Starkey

Thomas A. Starkey

Thomas A. Starkey was also a high churchman, but one of a very different sort. While the press described him as moderate high churchman, that term had acquired a new meaning, one much affected by the distinctive theological, devotional and social views of the Oxford Movement. Starkey described the movement glowingly in his 1877 sermon at St. Paul’s:

The period of my rectorship of this parish which extended from February 1854, to the autumn of 1858, was embraced within a very interesting and exciting portion of our general Church History. The long-continued stagnation in English and American Church life had been disturbed twenty years before by what is known as the “Oxford tracts movement.” In the old diocese the controversies, growing out of local causes had terminated two years before in the election of Bishop Wainwright, whose bright but brief Episcopate cheered the hearts of Churchmen, only to deepen the disappointment at its premature close. In the autumn of 1854, the same year in which I became rector of St. Paul’s, Dr. Potter, of St. Peter’s church in this city, was consecrated for the vacant seat; and I believe that I only reflect the general judgment when I say, that rarely has a difficult choice been justified by a wiser administration. It was a day of controversy, and at times, of strong and even angry feeling; but it was also a day of generous self-devotion and of brave endeavor for the church’s sake. The old stagnation had been completely broken and a new life stirred throughout all her borders.[v]

The fuller story of Starkey’s resignation is omitted from all church sources, but it was considered newsworthy by the popular press, allowing us to piece it together from newspaper accounts. The first article comes from the Albany Morning Express of October 26, 1858.

In St. Paul’s Church Sunday morning [24 Oct 1858], immediately after the reading of the Ante-Communion service, the Rev. Mr. Starkey came before the chancel and addressed his congregation. He remarked that six months ago the Vestry kindly gave him leave of absence for a period of time to enable him to regain his health. He left his congregation harmonious in feeling and united in action. After an absence of six months, and a return to his labors, he found a great charge in his temporal charge – his congregation distracted, and a want of harmony existing in the Parish. In view of his state of health and the condition of his congregation, he felt it his duty to resign his charge, and as Pastor he bade them farewell. His remarks and his determination were evidently unexpected to a large majority of his congregation, and were received with manifest surprise and emotion.[vi]

Thomas A. Starkey

Thomas A. Starkey

This news was so exciting that it was picked up by the New York City newspapers. The next day’s New York Evening Post gives a dramatic account of the previous Sunday’s events with the headline “Church Excitement in Albany: Dr. Starkie Declines to Preach,” quoting reports from the Albany Daily Knickerbocker of the previous day:

During Mr. Starkie’s absence his high-church notions have been so canvassed as to lead to some considerable feeling in the church, and he resolved to sever his connection with the church. This took place in a sudden manner on Sunday morning. “Without a moment’s notice to anybody, he walked into the church and informed the congregation that he could no longer act as their pastor. Having done this he retired and left the congregation to go home without a sermon. The reasons for resigning Mr. Starkie promises to lay before the senior warden –Mr. Tweddle—when the senior warden returns from Europe, which will be in a day or two.”[vii]

We may never know which “high church notions” were so vigorously debated (the now-archaic sense of canvassed.) The first option is that they refer to elaborate ritual practice, such as sung services, incense, sanctus bells and chasubles. In this period, however, the high church party was only beginning to be influenced by ritualism. Even twenty years later, when ritualism had spread widely, it was written that Starkey “is inclined to High Church views, but is not a ritualist in the broad sense of that term.”[viii] Starkey may however have been following ritual practices that would not surprise us at all, but that were then highly controversial. Many of these related to treating the communion table as an altar: by placing a cloth or flowers on it, or by using candles during daylight services. Another practice much debated was that of the celebrant turning to the communion table while reading the communion service, with his back to the congregation. The Book of Common Prayer directed that the minister stand at the liturgical north end of the altar (to the left, from the congregation’s point of view) during the service, as Kip is shown doing in the 1847 portrait by William Tolman Carlton.

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)

A second possibility is that these notions were theological, and related to one of the most contentious disputes of the time: the relative weight to be given to justification by faith as contrasted with baptismal regeneration.

And a third possibility is the notions had to do with social outreach. The only activity during his rectorship that Starkey described in in his 1877 sermon was a social ministry, the establishment of St. Paul’s Church Home, a home for “homeless and aged women” [ix]. Social ministry was an interest of the high church faction in both England the United States, but not of the old-style Hobartian high churchman. Starkey tells us that the Home did not survive his departure, suggesting that the ministry was not supported by the congregation.

While the vestry minutes of November 1, 1858 record the vestry’s acceptance of Starkey’s formal resignation, they do not describe the issues that led to his resignation. What is clear is that Starkey’s resignation, did not end the dissension in the church. The Albany Daily Knickerbocker continues, accurately predicting the further problems to come:

The resignation of Mr. Starkie will, of course, increase the bad feeling existing at St. Paul’s. The result will be a grand division and a new church. Who will succeed Mr. Starkie at St. Paul’s remains to be seen. Some vote in favor of the Rev. Mr. Rudder. The friend of Mr. Starkie will be opposed to this – some of them looking upon Mr. Rudder as a sort of intruder, invited to Albany to make mischief. How the matter will finish up will be known when the senior warden arrives.[x]

William Rudder had been engaged as an interim in June to preach until August 1, 1858; in August, that contract was extended until December 1. During this period, Rudder was assisted by  Starkey’s curate, Frederick P. Winne.

Frederick P. Winne

Frederick P. Winne

Rudder is vague about how he came to be called as interim from St. John’s Church, Quincy, Illinois, where he had been rector from 1857 until 1858. In his 1877 sermon he says that in 1858 he found himself in Albany as a result of “an accident on a western railroad,”[xi] was invited to preach at a friend’s church (presumably St. Peter’s, whose rector was Thomas Clapp Pitkin) where a member of St. Paul’s search committee heard his sermon, and invited him to fill St. Paul’s pulpit until Starkey returned.[xii]

William Rudder

William Rudder

The Rudder faction made their feelings known publicly. An undated newspaper clipping reports the gift on November 10, 1858 of a portable communion set service by “some of the congregation, who had listened with pleasure and profit to his impressive discourse.” A letter from the fourteen men is quoted, as is Rudder’s response. The fourteen include only one vestryman, Edward E. Kendrick, the cashier of the Bank of Albany. Interestingly, they also include four employees of the Bank of Albany, two of them Kendrick’s sons.

By late December 1858, chaos reigned, as the Albany Morning Express reported:

For several months past the Vestry of St. Paul’s Church has been engaged in a most unpleasant controversy, and as a matter of course, the members of the congregation have become implicated in the difficulty, there being two factions or divisions in the Church, directly antagonistic to each other. Since the commencement of the troubles, we have purposely refrained from alluding to them, nor do we intend now to recapitulate them at length. The questions in dispute between the two parties having become matters of public interest, we have therefore concluded to refer thereto. The origin of the division we do not know with certainty, Of its existence there can be no doubt, in fact it is not disputed. The resignation of the Rev. Mr. Starkey, and the reason therefor, is not unknown to the public. From that time, the difficulties increased, one faction being very desirous of calling the Rev. Mr. Rudder, and the other as much opposed to it. The cause of this opposition we do not intend to discuss. It is sufficient to know it exists. Frequent meetings of the Vestry were held at some of which the belligerent manifestations were made by and between the members. If we are not misinformed – and our authority is undoubted – language was frequently used and epithets indulged in that were far from creditable to those having the temporal management of a Church of God. So bitter were, and arethe feelings between the parties, that charges of direct falsehood have been made, without the least hesitation, and complaints preferred that de do not feel at liberty to allude to. On Monday evening meeting of the Vestry was held to choose a Rector, and a motion to select the Rev. Mr. Rudder was negatived, four of the members being in favor of it and six opposed to it. So the Church remains without a head, and the warfare continues. The result will undoubtedly lead to the secession of one of the two factions from the Church, and perhaps may even result in its dissolution entirely. – Such a state of affairs is certainly to be regretted, and very discreditable.[xiii]

This impasse was resolved during April 1859. That month, there was a major turnover in St. Paul’s vestry, with only one warden and three vestrymen reelected. Among the three continuing vestrymen was Edward E. Kendrick (a member of the Rudder faction that gave the communion service), who was elected junior warden. It is likely that Kendrick and the other three who were returned were the four who had voted for Rudder in December. The congregation also elected six brand-new vestrymen. On April 30, 1859, William Rudder was called as rector; he accepted the call in May, and became rector on June 1, 1859.

Edward E. Kendrick

Edward E. Kendrick

St. Paul’s had somehow been able to find a way through this crisis, with no sign of a major defection by the Starkey faction. Provided with a supportive vestry, Rudder was able to serve as rector until 1863. While Starkey’s Church Home for Women did not continue, Rudder did initiate a successful ministry to the deaf, and shepherded the congregation through the financial crisis of 1862 and the decision to move to Lancaster Street.

[i] “Our City Churches – IV. St. Paul’s (Episcopal) – J. Livingston Reese, Pastor,” Albany Evening Journal, January 28, 1871.

[ii] “Historical Sketch of St. Paul’s Parish: From a Sermon by the Rector,” pages 9-17 of The Semi-centennial Service of St. Paul’s Church (Albany: The Argus Press, 1877), 14.

[iii] William Ingraham Kip, The Double Witness of the Church (New York: D. Appleton, 1844), x.

[iv] John Henry Hobart, An Apology for Apostolic Order and Its Advocates (New York: T. and J. Swords, 1807), 272

[v] “Sermon of the Reverend Thomas A. Starkey, D.D.” pages 55-63 of The Semi-centennial Service of St. Paul’s Church (Albany: The Argus Press, 1877), 56-57

[vi] “Resignation of the Rev. Thomas A. Starkey,” Albany Morning Express, October 26, 1858.

[vii] “Church Excitement in Albany: Dr. Starkie Declines to Preach,” New York Evening Post, October 27, 1858.

[viii] “Rev. Thomas A. Starkey,” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, November 22, 1879, 204.

[ix] “Sermon of the Reverend Thomas A. Starkey, D.D.,” 61.

[x] “Church Excitement in Albany: Dr. Starkie Declines to Preach”

[xi] “The Sermon of the Reverend William Prall,” pages 32-42 of The Semi-centennial Service of St. Paul’s Church. (Albany: The Argus Press, 1877), 33.

[xii] “The Sermon of the Reverend William Prall,” 33-34.

[xiii] “St. Paul’s Church,” Albany Morning Express, December 29, 1858.

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.



William Ingraham Kip’s Leave of Absence

While St. Paul’s fourth rector, William Ingraham Kip, is certainly the best-known of our early clergy, his fame is principally due to his later service as the first missionary bishop — and subsequently first diocesan bishop — of California. But Kip deserves our respect and remembrance as well for his role in leading this congregation through an early financial crisis that we might not have survived.

Within months of Kip’s appointment as rector in 1838, it became apparent that the congregation was (in the words of a contemporary vestryman) “hopelessly wrecked.” Kip and a new group of lay leaders had no choice but to sell the Ferry Street church in order to pay creditors. It was their genius, however, to realize that if the church was to survive it could not stay in Albany’s South End. Under Kip, the Pearl Street Theater was purchased and renovated, relocating the congregation to what was then the center of Albany’s most upscale neighborhood. In that new location, with dynamic leadership, both ordained and lay, the congregation thrived.

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)

The years that followed this new beginning were busy and stressful ones. While major creditors had been satisfied by the sale of the church, for several more years others submitted claims for payment. Kip led through this difficult period, attracting many new parishioners with his dynamic preaching. During the winter of 1842-1843, he also gave a series of lectures that were to be published as Double Witness of the Church, one of the most popular and influential books of theology in the Episcopal Church in the mid-19th century, printed in 25 editions.

All this activity must have taken its toll. At a special meeting on September 30, 1844, the vestry was read a letter from Kip, announcing (as summarized in the vestry minutes) “his intention of leaving the city for the winter on a Tour to Europe for the purpose of improving his health as he has been advised by his Physician and Friends.”

The suddenness of this announcement may have surprised the vestry, but illness among clergy in this period was common. St. Paul’s, in particular, had far too much experience with illness among its clergy. Our second rector, William Linn Keese, came to Albany already in frail health, which was further worsened by his providing pastoral care for both St. Paul’s and St. Peter’s Church during the cholera epidemic of 1832. He was forced to resign in 1833, his health completely broken, and died three years later, at the age of 33. Kip’s immediate predecessor, Joseph H. Price, on his resignation had cited “the severity of the climate of Albany.” And Kip’s successor, Thomas Alfred Starkey, was on medical leave for the last six months of his term as rector.

The vestry approved a leave of absence for Kip of no more than one year and appointed Vandervoort Bruce as interim rector. They closed their meeting by approving this statement:

Therefore it is unanimously resolved that the good wishes and earnest prayers of the Vestry for the safety and preservation of our much esteemed Rector and his family accompany them on their contemplated voyage to Europe, and their Tour on that continent, and that under the blessing of Divine Providence they may return in safety, and that with a renovated constitution he will again resume among his congregation the exercise of his holy functions.

Kip and his family left Albany on October 2, and on October 8, 1844 sailed from New York City to Paris. On November 12, Kip addressed a pastoral letter from Paris to his flock, signed by “your absent yet affectionate rector.”

Cover, Kip Pastoral Letters to the Congregation of St. Paul's Church (1845)

Cover, Kip Pastoral Letters to the Congregation of St. Paul’s Church (1845)

By January 9, 1845, Kip was in Rome, where he wrote a second pastoral letter. He seems to have spent the majority of his leave in Rome. Both letters were later published for distribution in Albany.

Kip took almost the entire year’s leave granted by the vestry. He returned to Albany in August 1845, and preached his first sermon on September 7, 1845. The leave of absence proved fruitful intellectually. Before the year was out, he had published Christmas Holydays in Rome, and he later wrote The Catacombs of Rome, which used research that he had done on the trip.

The Rt. Rev. William Ingraham Kip

The Rt. Rev. William Ingraham Kip

Kip’s leave of absence seem to have succeeded in restoring his health; he served the rest of his term in Albany in apparent good health, resigning in 1853 when he was elected missionary bishop to California.