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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The "Searching for a Read: Part II" Story

It was an ordinary day.  I'm about halfway through the first of two volumes which detail the building of the church that I attend in downtown Lancaster, PA, St. James Episcopal.  About a week ago I told the story of the founding of the church in 1744 with services being held at the Court House on the square in Lancaster.  
A 1844 painting of the original brick
St. James Episcopal Church.
Eventually a limestone church was constructed on two plots of land that were given to the church by Andrew Hamilton and Colonel James Hamilton who laid out the city of Lancaster.  That limestone church was eventually leveled because of it's poor condition and a new brick church took its place.  It was a little over a year after the old church was removed that the new one was ready to be conse- crated.  Published in the Lancaster Journal on September 20, 1820 was a notice that invited the public to St. James Church on October 15 when the Right Rev. Bishop White would consecrate the new church.  The only part of the original structure that was kept was part of the foundation along the north side of the church.  The new church was the same length as the old, but much wider.  There were two broad aisles in the new church and the pulpit stood against the east wall with stairs ascending to it on each side with hand rails.  The chancel was enclosed with a semicircular rail of mahogany and their was seating on the main level with paid pews while galleries (balconies) were on both sides and on the west end of the church. The steeple from the original limestone building was incorporated into the new building. 
A drawing of the new brick church finished
and consecrated on October 15, 1820.
 It was 76 years after St. James Episcopal was founded that the new building was conse- crated.  Rev. Joseph Clarkson was the minister at the time, but soon afterward the Rev. William Augustus Muhlenberg became minister.  Rev. Muhlenberg founded the Sunday School of St. James Church in 1821.  It was a frame school house that was built to the north of the church, close to  where the present parish house now stands.   He also was responsible for establishing free public schools in the city of Lancaster as well as encouraging free public schools in the state of Pennsylvania.  It was during the ministry of Rev. Samuel Bowman that the church became warm, meaning a furnace was installed for the first time.  Then on June 9, 1841, the church was informed that they had neglected to pay their annual ground rent since 1818 on lots 35 and 36 that were given to the church in 1744 by James Hamilton when he founded the city of Lancaster.  A Mr. Newman, trustee for the Hamilton estate, informed the church the rent amounted to $153.33, an exorbitant amount for the time.  The vestry and Mr. Newman finally agreed on a fee of $130 with the stipulation that the fee would be extinguished forever. Then on March 19, 1843, at 4:00 in the morning and with about two feet of snow on the ground, fire destroyed the Sunday School building.  Four horses where needed to pull the fire engine through the snow, but to no avail.  Within eight months a new two-story brick Sunday School house was completed.  This building was eventually turned into an orphan's asylum until it was removed for the building of a new parish house.  For many years St. James lit their church with lamps that used whale oil until, in 1850 when the church switched to gas lighting. In 1847 a parsonage was built between the Sunday School and the church proper.  Throughout the history of the church the members of the church paid rent to sit in the pews of the church.  A rate chart published in 1820 had numbered pews renting for anywhere from $13-$35 while pews in the gallery costing $4.  In 1848 the pew rates were adjusted with some being higher and others lowered.  The pews in the gallery to the north of the organ were designated for colored persons.  Once again in 1862 the renting system was redone allowing pews in the rear for single seat prices while all others were whole units.  Three years later all pew prices were increased 30%.  In 1850 a sexton's house was built on Cherry Alley which still remains today.  In 1868 Dr. John P. McCaskey was elected to the vestry of St. James and he remained a vestry member until his death 68 years later.  Lancaster City's High School bears his name today.
This photo from 1871 shows the new apse as
well as the galleries on the sides of the church.
You can also see the angels, painted with different
skin colors, at the top of the apse.
In 1869, during the leadership of Rev. Edward Shippen Watson, the apse, or the part of the church where the altar is located, was added.  On the ceiling of the new apse artist Ludwig Reingruber painted a series of angels which still remains to this day.  When Rev. Cyrus Frederick Knight became the minister he undertook the installation of a new organ which involved structural changes when the new organ was placed in an organ chamber and an arch opening was constructed on the east end of the church next to the new apse.  The old organ loft on the west end of the church was removed as well as the side galleries.  Eventually the second tier of stained glass windows were lowered, since the gallery seating was removed.  Choir stalls were also added in front of the apse.  Also under Rev. Knight, the west end of the church was extended about 20 feet towards Duke Street and the bell tower was built.  When many of the additions were made, graves in the surrounding cemetery had to be moved.  Many ended up being placed inside the church with plaques and memorial markers in the floor of the church. My next story in this series will begin as the church enters the 1900s.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

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