History Of St. Paul's
In 1702, Christ Church of Philadelphia established a mission Anglican Church in the growing riverfront town of Chester , Pennsylvania . The first service held in the new church was on January 24, 1703 . Since this was the day before the Conversion of St. Paul, the Rev. John Talbot, who preached the first sermon on that day suggested the new church take the name of St. Paul . Two relics of those early days still exist. The Queen Anne Silver, presented in 1705, and the Sandelands tombstone which is embedded in the west wall of the nave.
Throughout the 18th century and into the early 19th century, St. Paul's struggled to survive. The low ebb came in 1831 when the Rev. Richard U. Morgan left. There was no rector and there were no communicants. With the appointment of the Rev. John Baker Clemson in 1831, St. Paul's began a long and steady period of growth. In 1850, a new church building was completed and in 1863, with the arrival of the Rev. Henry Brown, St. Paul's began growing. To make room for a growing congregation, a second church, St. Luke's, was built in the South Ward and in 1873 the church building was enlarged.
The Rev. Francis M. Taitt followed the Rev. Brown in 1893 and assured that St. Paul's would have financial stability. He established an endowment in 1913 that carried the church through its lean years. On Easter Sunday, 1900, the present St. Paul's Church was completed at Ninth and Madison Streets. The Rev. Taitt remained as Rector until 1929 at which time he was elected the Ninth Bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania.
Church membership peaked in the mid 1960's, but subsequently Chester experienced an economic downturn. Several times in the past few decades we considered relocating the church from Chester to the outlying suburbs, but we concluded that the church should remain as a point of stability in the city.
The present church building is the third in our long history. Located at the corner of Ninth and Madison Streets in Chester, Pennsylvania, this building was completed in the spring of 1900.
St. Paul's is a Gothic Revival church built in the form of a cross, facing toward the east. This orientation allows the morning sun to shine through the large altar window depicting the "Conversion of St. Paul." This window is a masterpiece from the Lewis Comfort Tiffany Studios, as are several others throughout the church. There are also windows produced by the Willetts Studio, another renowned name in stained glass work.
Among the many memorial gifts is an Aeolian-Skinner organ, presented to the church in 1956. This organ is one of the last of those personally built by the founders of this world-renowned organ company and has been maintained in excellent condition.
The bell tower has an eleven-bell carillon that can be operated from a station in the sacristy or from the organ console.
The parish lobby was renovated in 1998. This was quite an undertaking since it involved the relocation of the parish office and the moving of the chapel altar. But the results were worth it. The area is now a pleasant place for parishioners to gather before and after a service.
In the lower level of the parish house there is a dining room and kitchen, which can accommodate dining for up to 100 people.
The education building was constructed in 1957 to accommodate a large Sunday School population and the fledgling St. Paul's Grade School, which operated from 1964 through 1968. This addition added nine classrooms, three bathrooms, and an office. Currently the lower level is being used by and Chester Eastside Inc. Located on the first floor are the George and Marjorie Sharp Chapel, Choir and Music rooms, and the Priest-in-charge office.
A large parking lot lies adjacent to the education building that allows secure access to the church. This area was renovated in 2005. The church also owns a small plot of land directly behind the parking lot which is currently being used by Chester Eastside Inc. as a community garden.