Tuesday, November 4, 2008

saint paul's tenacity

I enjoy shooting in and around St. Paul's. Spiritually it offers a quiet place for a few minutes of mid-day meditation, architecturally it's the most interesting church on the rock (and that's probably because, even though he's old enough to have done so, Sonny McCoy didn't design it) and historically, it's got a tenacious back story.

The charter for St. Paul's Episcopal Church was approved by the Key West City Commission in 1831. It's first rector, the Reverend Sanson K. Brunot arrived from New York soon after but the faithful, with pastor and a parish in hand, had no church. So the Reverend held St. Paul's first service at the County Courthouse on Christmas Day in 1832 .

The land on the corner of Duval and Eaton, where the church is located now, was donated to St. Paul's by the widow of John William Charles Fleming in 1832. Her one condition to the donation was that her husband's remains, for one reason or another buried under that plot of land, were not to be moved. When construction on the original St. Paul's was started in 1838, Mr. Fleming was left undisturbed but the story and movement of the church itself, was destined to be a bit more adventurous.

The first church was built of coral rock and stood for eight years until, in 1846, it was totally destroyed by a hurricane. It's replacement, the second church, was built of wood and it held it's first service in 1848. There the faithful would gather and pray for thirty-eight years until the church, along with most of the rest of the city, was consumed by the Great Fire of Key West in 1886. (it seems that the city's one and only steam powered fire engine had been shipped off to New York for repair and the fire raged unchallenged for twelve hours)

After the fire, the rebuilding of St. Paul's began almost overnight and the third church, also built of wood, was completed in 1887. This incarnation of St. Paul's would be the first church in Florida to hoist a chime of bells into it's steeple. Then twenty-two years later, in 1909, disaster visited the faithful again as St. Paul's was again destroyed by a hurricane.

At that point, the faithful might have thought, "now's the time to throw in the towel and move the whole boodle to Opalocka", but no. . .
construction of the fourth church, pictured here, began in 1911 and was constructed of steel and concrete. (lessons learned, aye?)
The first service in this current incarnation of the church was held in 1919 and, except for undergoing a major renovation from 1991 - 1993, St. Paul's has served the faithful faithfully ever since.

For more views of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, inside and out, please reference these links. . .
Strained Glass

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