The J. Livingston Reese Memorial Volume

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

J. Livingston Reese

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freeborn G. Jewett, Jr.

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

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

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

Frederick J. Bassett

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

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

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

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

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.

St. Paul’s Pudding (and other Culinary Pets)

On a recent visit to the Albany Institute library, I discovered a small treasure: a typescript St. Paul’s cookbook compiled in 1940 and titled “Culinary Pets of The Women of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.” The title is curious for its use of pet to mean a things of which one is particularly fond. This usage must have seemed a little old-fashioned even in 1941.

Title page “Culinary Pets of the Women of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church” (1940)

The compiler was Ruth Maria Pugliese (1918-2006), whose McCammon ancestors (including William McCammon, founder of the McCammon Piano-Forte Company) had been communicants at St. Paul’s for four generations. Many current members will remember her by her married name, Ruth McDowell. We have one photograph of her, taken 26 years later, when, as president of Women’s of St. Paul’s, she organized the decoration of the new building on Hackett Boulevard.

Knickerbocker News 18 May 1966

Contributors to “Culinary Pets” (1940)

In addition to the recipes contributed by a list of many of the prominent women of the parish, the booklet contains a selection from its 1891 predecessor, “Favorite Recipes of the Ladies of St. Paul’s Church.” I share one example from that group, hoping that we can revive “St. Paul’s Pudding” at our next church potluck.

An 1891 Recipe for “St. Paul’s Pudding”


Two 1919 Church School Memorials

A room in St. Paul’s Parish House on Jay street contained a portrait gallery of prominent men and women from the parish: rectors, wardens and vestry members, curates, and significant donors. You can just make out some of these portraits in these 1947 photographs of the Parish Aid Society.

Parish Aid Society Ladies January 1947

Parish Aid Society January 1947

Because this collection was completed in the first half of the 20th century, the clergy, warden and vestry portraits were entirely of men. It is only among the donors that we find a few women, including three of whom I have already written: Flora Myers Brady Gavit, Pauline Hewson Wilson and Caroline Gallup Reed.

But the photo gallery also included portraits of two much younger women, both of whom were honored by the establishment of memorial funds in St. Paul’s Church School one hundred years ago this year. Both had attended St. Paul’s Sunday School, and their parents commemorated their young lives by establishing funds in their memories.

On the centennial of the creation of those memorials, let us also remember Beatrice and Marian, and the many unnamed young people who have been  touched by St. Paul’s Sunday School.

Beatrice Pinney Butler

Beatrice Pinney Butler was born in 1906 in New York City, and during her first 10 years lived with her parents and maternal grandparents in Brooklyn. In November 1915, her father (then a captain in the New York State National Guard) was posted to the Adjutant General’s Office in Albany, and the family moved here.

Beatrice developed appendicitis in March 1918, and despite surgery, she died on April 15, 1918.

Marian Sparrow Blanchard

Marian Sparrow Blanchard was born in 1898 in Albany, and lived here with her parents. She contracted influenza during the epidemic of 1918, and died on October 18 of that year.

St. Paul’s Rectory on Greenway North, Albany

Another recent acquisition for the archives is this photograph of St. Paul’s rectory at 5 Greenway North, Albany.

St. Paul’s Rectory, 5 Greenway North, Albany (1948)

This photo was published in the Albany Times Union for February 28, 1948, when the church purchased the house for its new rector, Oliver D. Carberry. The Lancaster Street rectory was rented to Lena B. Henning, who ran a boarding house there. In 1951, St. Paul’s sold the former rectory to Mrs. Henning for $10,500, and used the proceeds to pay off part of the mortgage on the Greenway North house.

Carberry, whose tenure lasted from 1948 until 1954, was to be the only St. Paul’s rector to live at 5 Greenway North. When his successor, F. Graham Luckenbill, was called in 1955, the vestry sold the Albany rectory and bought a house at 65 Burhans Place, Elsmere.


Photographs of St. Paul’s, Lancaster Street: 1962-1964

This week I was able to acquire a photograph of St. Paul’s Lancaster Street building that I had never seen before. Originally published in the Albany Times Union, it shows the church as it looked late in the winter of 1962.

St. Paul’s Lancaster Street, March 1962

The publication date, March 28, 1962, is a significant one: this was the day after the Temporary State Commission for the Capital City announced that the State would take 98.5 acres of downtown Albany by eminent domain for the South Mall. St. Paul’s Church was in the middle of this “take area.” You can read the story of the congregation’s efforts to save the building in an earlier post.

I earlier shared this photograph taken just a few months later, around April of 1962.

St. Paul’s, freshly painted, about April 1962

But this new discovery provides an opportunity to post three other photographs from our archives that also show the building in the three years before its demolition in October 1964.

St. Paul’s Lancaster Street, August 1963


St. Paul’s Lancaster Street, early 1964

St. Paul’s Lancaster Street, 1964

Loyalty Week, 1955

Last year, Jennifer Johnston shared with us the program from St. Paul’s 1990 production of “Fat, Fat Jehoshaphat.” Now Jennifer has made another discovery: a brochure produced over 60 years ago as part of a St. Paul’s stewardship campaign. The leaflet includes photographs of a typical Sunday at St. Paul’s, giving us a view of the state of the parish in that period.

This 1955 stewardship campaign was called “Loyalty Week,” beginning on November 13 of that year. This brochure was distributed, and “The Messenger” (which was mailed weekly to every household) encouraged families to bring their pledge cards to church on Sunday. The preacher that day was Arthur R. McKinstry, rector of St. Paul’s from 1927 until 1931, and by this time the Bishop of Delaware.

Arthur R. McKinstry

This was only nine years after the end of World War II, at the height of the Red scare (the Army–McCarthy hearings had been held the previous year), the year after the armistice that paused (but did not end) the Korean war, and at the beginning of the Cold War. With both the United States and the Soviet Union testing nuclear weapons, the United States in January of that year had begun development of intercontinental ballistic missiles. We have to agree with Deacon Mole (a character in the Walt Kelly comic strip “Pogo”) that the newspapers in that period were “Full of Doom, Gloom and rumors of Boom.”





No wonder, then that prominently placed on the brochure’s front page, in all capital letters and a bold typeface, is the warning “CIVILIZATION IS IN PERIL IN AN ATOMIC WORLD, IF THE WORLD IS UNCHRISTIAN!”

Loyalty Week 1955: Brochure Cover

Once we flip to page two, however, the view is much sunnier. There are five photographs:

Nave, with 324 worshipers:

Loyalty Week 1955: The Nave

A Sunday school room:

Loyalty Week 1955: Sunday School Classroom

Women’s luncheon:

Loyalty Week 1955: Luncheon

Women’s group, at work sewing):

Loyalty Week 1955: The Church at Work

There are no corresponding photographs of men’s participation, but a text block assures us of their active involvement.

Loyalty Week 1955: Men’s Activities

Chancel Choir and clergy (the rector, F. Graham Luckenbill and his assistant, Robert J. Evans). The choirmaster, Clarence A. Hollister, is on the far right of the middle row.

Loyalty Week 1955: Chancel Choir and Clergy

The accompanying text describes an active, growing parish, and includes annual statistics of 25 baptisms, 35 transfers and 19 confirmed. “This is far from sensational, but it is also far from standing still.” The author highlights increases over the previous year with both Sunday attendance and Sunday School enrollment doubled. These are certainly noteworthy increases, but one wonders why that particular comparison is made.

Loyalty Week 1955: Note from the Vestry

Milton W. Hamilton’s 1977 history of the parish provides the necessary context: the previous years had been a very difficult one for St. Paul’s:

The Reverend Oliver D. Carberry, who became rector in 1948, was an able and effective preacher, but he became involved in a controversy over church music, in which he was opposed by several vestrymen. There were other disagreements and several resignations from the vestry. Feelings ran high, and a number of families left the church. A call by one vestryman to stop this trend was tabled. The Reverend Mr. Carberry resigned February 22, 1954, to accept a call to St. Paul’s Church, Fairfield, Conn. The loss in membership, however, was reflected in less financial support. A contributing factor was that now few members lived in the downtown area. In 1948 a rectory had been purchased in western Albany. The Reverend F. Graham Luckenbill (1954-1958) recognized the need for a parking area, and it was necessary to take out a large bank loan to buy a lot for this purpose.

The impression of a thriving parish in 1955, then, relied on a comparison with the previous year, which had been a disaster. And the long term problems that had weakened St. Paul’s (white flight from downtown Albany, the decline of the neighborhood, loss of families because of controversies and debt) could not be easily overcome.

Clarence A. Hollister

In addition to the resignations of the rector in 1954, choirmaster Walter Witherspoon had resigned in September 1955, to be replaced by Clarence A. Hollister.

Bishop Frederick L. Barry

We have not found records of the results of this Loyalty Week, but the long-term demographic changes in the neighborhood would only continue to worsen for the next few years. Within three years, the parish was so weakened that when F. Graham Luckenbill resigned as rector in 1958, Bishop Barry appointed Luckenbill’s curate, Donald I. Judson, as priest-in-charge, discouraged the vestry from calling a new rector, and suggested that St. Paul’s either merge with another parish, or construct a new building elsewhere in the city. As we saw in an earlier post, the vestry rejected Bishop Barry’s advice, and instead called Nelson F. Parke.

But in October 1955, those challenges seemed surmountable, and we can appreciate the enthusiasm and vision of those who organized Loyalty Week and produced this brochure, promoting an enthusiastic view of St. Paul’s future.

My thanks to Jenn! What other treasures may she be able to find?