Project Canterbury

History of St. Paul's Church, Brooklyn, New York

Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1919.

St. Paul's Church, Brooklyn, was organized in the City of Brooklyn on Christmas Day in the year or our Lord 4849.

The following account is a copy from the Parish Register as far as 1852:

'Services were commenced by the Rev. Isaac P. Labagh in the upper part of a stable in the lower part of Union Street, south side, near Everret, and continued there for one month, when they were held in the upper room of a carpenter's shop a few doors above the stable and there continued until they were held in the Church erected in Carroll Street, between Hicks and Henry, in the fall of 1850.

'The first Vestry was composed of the following persons:

'Wardens: Robt. R. Boyd and John Blackmore. Vestrymen: Burton G. Hammond, Robt. Whidden, Seabury Kissam, Isaac W. A. Bromly, Daniel I. Baker, Wm. W. Hicks, George Curtis, and Henry Alexander, Jr.

'The first meeting of the Vestry after its organization was held at the house of Dr. John Blackmore, when the Rev. Isaac P. Labagh was unanimously elected Rector of the Parish, January 10, 1850.

'The first Church edifice erected was of frame, twenty-five by fifty feet, with a chancel ten feet by fifteen, and a tower eight feet square, total sixty-eight feet, and was located in Carroll [1/2] Street, between Hicks and Henry. The building, which was not consecrated, was first occupied, in an unfinished state, on the 19th Sunday after Trinity (October 5, 1850), when the Rev. Isaac P. Labagh preached from Ps. 26. 8, and on the 23rd Sunday after Trinity (November 3, 1850), which was the first anniversary of the beginning of the Parish, a sermon appropriate to the occasion was preached by the Rector from 1 Sam. 7. 12.

'The second anniversary sermon was preached by the Rector on November 2, 1861, from Ps. 87. 5, 6, the congregation having already increased threefold.

'The Church was enlarged in the summer and fall of 1852, and made cruciform, eighty-eight feet by sixty-eight, with seventy-two pews, and built of brick, the wooden enclosure of the nave being taken off to correspond with the transepts and chancel. The third anniversary sermon was preached on November 28, 1852.' The Parish Register from 1852 to 1880 was destroyed by fire.

The corner-stone of the present Church was laid in 1867 (Richard M. Upjohn, architect). The Rector of the Church at this time was Dr. T. Stafford Drowne. The Church was consecrated by the Right Reverend A. N. Littlejohn, D.D., Bishop of Long Island, in 1884, during the rectorship of the Reverend Warren Calhoun Hubbard.

Attempts were made from time to time to establish the parish on Catholic lines, but the efforts were sporadic without the definite teaching which arouses opposition, and the Church, becoming neither Protestant nor Catholic, lost its vitality. The population drifted away, and finally on Easter Day, 1809, this once noble Church saw its Easter collection taken from the High Altar by the sheriff as a seizure for debt. [2/3] Arrangements were about to be made for the sale of the edifice and the closing of the Church when it was decided to call Andrew Chalmers Wilson as Rector without salary, and with the understanding that he should be given freedom to re-establish the parish upon absolute Catholic dogma. On Ascension Day, 1909, the first mass was said by Andrew Chalmers Wilson as Rector. The Church was uninhabitable for lack of proper heat and light. The building was out of repair, and there was a running debt of about ten thousand dollars. It took many months to secure a statement.

Never at any time during the first three months after Ascension Day, 1909, were there more than twelve people at any service, and it was six months before twenty-five people were present at one time. The collections averaged ten to twelve dollars a month at this time.

Daily Mass has been said and a Solemn High Mass sung on Sundays without interruption for ten years. The Blessed Sacrament has been perpetually reserved upon the High Altar except on Good Fridays. As a result of this Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, at the Midnight Mass of 1913 seven hundred people made their communion. At Easter Even of Lent, 1919, and during the Retreats of this year, crowds thronged the confessional. Two hundred and forty-eight people, principally adults, have been confirmed since 1909.

From 1909 to 1919 four memorial altars, the pulpit, the crucifix, and the shrines of Our Lady, St. Peter, and St, Paul, have been given. The Rector has been enabled to repair the whole structure, install electric light and a heating plant, build three chapels, a new organ and loft, and endow the Church. The improvements amounted, to over $200,000, and the endowment raised amounted to $200,000.

[4] On Saint Andrew's Day, 1911, the Bishop blessed the new Rectory and named it Saint Andrew's House.

In 1914 the Oratory in the Rectory was decorated, and a stained-glass window and Sacrament House for the Reserved Sacrament given as a memorial. A War Altar was given in 1917, and a bronze War Tablet was dedicated in 1919 with a roster of fifty-eight names.

A letter received by the Rector from Mr. T. E. Smith, Secretary of the Guild of All Souls, on May 23, 1919, stated that Saint Paul's, Brooklyn, had the largest branch of this Guild of any Parish in America.

On Ascension Day, 1919, the people of the Parish presented the Rector with $1,200 for the purchase of a solid gold chalice, and the Vestry presented him with a personal gift and resolutions.

(Ralph Adams Cam has been the architect since 1909).

(Signed) Robert M. Darbee, Seventeen years Clerk of the Vestry.

(Signed) William H. Ford, Senior Warden. (Vestryman since 1884).

(Signed) Myndert J. Van Kleeck, Junior Warden. (Vestryman since 1909).

Sworn to before me this 21st day of June, 1919, James H. Gilvary, Notary Public, King's Co.

Rectors of Saint Paul's.

Isaac P. Labagh, 1850-1858
T. Stafford Drowne, 1859-1875
Warren C. Hubbard, 1877-1889
John Dolby Skene, 1890-1894
Howard M. Dumbell, 1895-1899
Richard D. Pope, 1900-1903
Warner E. L. Ward, 1904-1909
Andrew Chalmers Wilson, 1909-

Project Canterbury