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The History

 

 

 

 

 

In a city of many historical buildings, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, whose cornerstone was laid in 1903, stands
out as a special treasure. 

The congregation of St. Paul’s has a history dating back to the Gold Rush.  Originally named Grace Episcopal, the congregation was the first organized parish in Sacramento in 1849 and was the worshipping place of the notorious railroad barons Crocker, Herriman, and Stanford, prominent men who would later become merchants, city mayors, and state governors.  In the 1880s, the congregation reorganized into its present form, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.  The congregation created their first mission in 1896.

The Johnson & Son Opus 503 was installed in St. Paul’s by Otto Schoenstein of San Francisco in the rebuilt chancel chamber that once held the Bergstrom organ. The dedication of the organ took place on January 10, 1915.
More information on the history of the organ...Stained glass window on left side of sanctuary


A beautiful collection of contrasting styles, the Norman Architecture, patterned after a typical old English country church of the late 16th century, is complemented by several stained glass windows.  For over 100 years, on the corner of 15th and J streets, the church has stood stalwart, with her red doors open wide to receive the members of the Sacramento community.

The worshipping sanctuary of this historic building bears a cornerstone laid in 1903, which was dedicated in March 1909.  At that time, Bishop Moreland praised the sanctuary with the following words: “It is to your credit that you conceived a grand building, an immortal edifice…  It is fitting that it should be massive, costly...  Here stands the church, the possession not of St. Paul’s Parishioners alone, but the whole community.”

Visitors to St. Paul’s are immediately struck by the sturdy and solid elevations of the façade.  Reminiscent of Norman architecture, the plans were drawn up by the Chicago firm of D.H. Burnham in 1902.  The church is built of local stone and finished with a steel and slate roof.  The white granite, tranStained glass window in memory of Leland Stanford JR.sported by the Southern Pacific Company free of charge, is from the same Folsom quarry as the Folsom prison.  The building took more than ten years in the making at a cost of $90,000-$ 100.000.  Completion was frequently interrupted by lack of funds, by changes in clergy and vestry leadership, and most notably, by the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.  Five years after completion, fire broke out as the organist turned on the blower, one Sunday in January of 1914, which destroyed the wood paneling, the Crocker memorial window, and the original organ.  The inside was soon refurbished: the interior walls were plastered, a new five-foot wood panel wainscot was installed, several new stained glass windows were added to the three original windows, new art glass borders decorated the older windows, and a 1877 Johnson & Son Tracker Organ was purchased and shipped from Massachusetts.

The solidity of the façade belies the haven of quiet, simple dignity of the interior. Adorned with rich stained-glass windows and dark wood paneling, the interior offers a sanctuary of peace and solitude from an often confusing and too busy society.  St. Paul’s houses three special stained glass windows at the three ends of the transept.  All three are gems of stained glass that illuminate the best of Victorian-era glass work, painting, and coloration.  Afternoon sun shines from the west through the St. Cecilia window, a gift of the Haymond family.  Given in 1876, the window was transported from St. Paul’s second edifice to the present building.  Catching the morning sun of the east is the Stanford window, the first memorial to their son Leland, given several years before the creation of Stanford University, and also transported from the 2nd edifice.

Stained glass window Assension Stained glass window of Christ knoking on the door

On the north end of the transept, above the altar, is the Ascension window today.  The central portion was given in the 1940s in memory of Catherine Wettig, replacing the original Crocker window, which was lost in the 1914 fire.  Subsequent gifts from the congregation after World War II provided the surrounding panels.  Following a gothic style, when side panels wereAltar stained glass window teaching aids in a world before the printed text, the Wetting stained glass is a better historical match to the architecture of the present building even though it is the newest of the three windows.  Its stylized figures and rich colors depict the Ascension of Christ in Glory and offer a truly magnificent focus for prayer and meditation.  We pray you might experience the loving, forgiving, and healing presence of the living God while standing in this transept.  It is for such a particular moment in time that this edifice has stood for over 100 years.

St. Paul’s history of outreach is varied and enduring.  During the Great Depression, St. Paul’s was the Cathedral and Trinity Church held Sunday school classes.  In the 1940s and l950s, St. Paul’s started several missions in the expanding Sacramento area, many of whose congregations are large today, due to urban flight.  Fire destroyed the parish hall in 1964 and growth as a parish was seriously hampered.  As a result, St. Paul’s became the center for Urban Work and Study, the home of diocesan outreach and welfare programs, partitioned into offices, no pews, and with only 25 members.

The congregation is flourishing again since the late 1980s and now continues to restore and preserve her City of Sacramento Historical Landmark status through faith and music.  Today, St. Paul’s houses a vital music program, including the Chancel Choir led by Mark Robinson on the superb Tracker Organ and a delightful handbell choir led by Andrea Weerakoon.  An interesting bit of music history is that the Grateful Dead performed here before they were famous!