FAITH IN ACTION FOR 250 YEARS

A WALK THROUGH HISTORY

1900 The parish house is expanded.

1900 St. Peter’s chapter of Girls Friendly Society is organized.

1900 St. Paul’s Church on Third Street is closed, and acquired by St. Peter’s Church, which sells it in late 1903 to the diocese as the new home for the Protestant Episcopal City Mission, then housed at 411 Spruce St.

1903 The day school is converted to a choir school since the need for a day school ended with the construction of the Wharton School. There are 30 boys from 3rd grade to 8th grade attending.

1904 Dr. Nelson is consecrated bishop coadjutor of Albany; Dr. William Groton, dean of the Divinity School, is interim rector.

1906 Dr. Edward M. Jefferys becomes 12th rector of St. Peter’s Church. A former curate under Dr. Nelson, he had been rector of Emmanuel Church in Cumberland, Md., when he was called.

1907 Church Periodical Club branch is started at behest of Bishop Ozi Whitaker.

1908 First deaconess, Louise Adele Freeman, is assigned to the parish.

1908 Fund-raising begins for new organ.

1908 The church interior is painted.

1908 The Jewish Mission is organized under the Rev. Andrew Weinstein.

1909 Daily Vacation Bible School begins.

1910 Manual Training School established at St. Peter’s House.

1910 Servers Guild of St. John organized for crucifers.

1910 St. Nicholas Guild organized for boys of the parish.

1910 The mixed choir of volunteers is reactivated to sing during the summers when the men and boys are away.

1911 150th anniversary of the church is observed with purchase of new organ at a cost of $10,000; Dr. Jefferys completes sesquicentennial issue of Parish Annual. The organ is first used by T. Tertius Noble.

1912 St. Peter’s reaches peak membership at 1,026 communicants and 533 children.

1915 Harold W. Gilbert becomes choirmaster and headmaster of the choir school.

Front and Pine Streets in 1930 was a far cry from what it looks like in 2011.

  Returning in April 1919 from service in France and Germany during the First World War, the Rev. Edward Miller Jefferys had to face a neighborhood much poorer, more industrial and even more diverse than the one he had left. Following in the footsteps of Thomas F. Davies and Richard H. Nelson, Jefferys had been able to strike their balance between the needs of less-affluent parishioners and the demands of the well-to-do ones who paid the church expenses. The church leaders had always subscribed to the belief that, as Jefferys put it, "St. Peter's has been wedded in the Providence of God to this community."

  Jefferys maintained St. Peter's was much more than a "historic and hallowed relic," but the wealthy women and men who had driven the church's work for years were passing away at a rapid rate. Their children were content to be married at "Old St. Peter's," but preferred to live and attend church elsewhere. Jefferys called it "The Scattering."

  Faced by declining membership, Jefferys turned to Harold W. Gilbert and the choir school. While acknowledging that he was "frequently accused of favoritism or partiality where the choir school is concerned," adding "the esteem in which the choir was held" increased the church's visibility.

  "The Scattering" and the declining value of St. Peter's investments in neighborhood properties as buildings were abandoned or turned into warehouses and small factories forced the vestry to consider cutting back substantially. Still, with $320,000 in the general endowment fund and $163,000 in charity endowments, Jefferys argued that “it is no exaggeration to say that the more the neighborhood changes, the more St. Peter’s will be needed here, the more work there will be to do, and the more useful the beloved church will be.”

  The biggest blow to Jefferys and to the parish was the closing of St. Peter’s House at Front and Pine Streets. Once surrounded by rowhouses occupied by the people it was designed to serve, the mission, opened by Davies in 1870, was now in the middle of poultry processing plants and warehouses associated with the food distribution center in the nearby Dock Street area. In April 1922, a committee of the vestry led by the warden Sharswood Brinton investigated the situation at St. Peter’s House. Rats attracted to the neighborhood by the poultry plants had undermined the foundations of the building, and the committee concluded that the work could be better done at what was then called Devereux House, at 313 Pine St. Built in 1808 for the Rev. Robert Blackwell, it had been purchased from the estate of Helen Devereux in 1922 by a parishioner and donated to the parish. The sale price was then used to fund church projects according to the terms of Miss Devereux’s will.

Jefferys and choir alumni in 1935.

Forward  In the beginning

The 18th Century

The 19th Century

The 20th Century

The People of St. Peter's

The Choir

Mission and Outreach

Did You Know?

The Next 250

The Hero of Tripoli

The Book