St. Paul’s Universalist Church I
Life Span: 1853-1871
Location: Northwest corner of Wabash Avenue and Van Buren street
Architect: W. W. Boyington
Chicago Illustrated May 1866
Saint Paul’s Church, in which worship the congregation of the First Universalist Society of Chicago, is located at the north-west corner of Wabash Avenue and Van Buren street. It is built of stone, and possesses more than ordinary architectural beauty. The dimensions are 70 feet front by a depth of 108 feet, including the projectures of the towers, turrets and buttresses. The style is Gothic, with lancet headed windows and doors. The front of the building is very graceful. The tower and spire are in the centre, an reach to a beautiful height of 175 feet. There is a turret on the north and south side of the front. There are three entrance doors in front, all opening into a spacious vestibule. The exterior walls are composed of stone, rock faced; the spire and the pinnacles are of wood. The main auditorium is on the second floor, which is reached by flights of stairs leading from the vestibule. This room is fifty-eight by seventy-five feet, with galleries, and affords comfortable seating for eight hundred persons. The height is twenty-eight feet, with a vaulted ceiling forty-three feet in the centre. This ceiling is handsomely divided into panels. The ribs, purlins, pendants, corbels and brackets, are all finished in the finest style of art, and indicate great taste and skill in the designer as well as the workmen. The pulpit is erected in an octagonal recess, in the west end of the building. The organ is an excellent one, and is in the front part of the building; it was built by Mr. Erbon. The pulpit, pews and choir gallery, are all built of solid oak, and are finely finished in the most substantial manner. The first story, which is ten feet high in the clear, is elegantly fitted up and most admirably arranged for various purposes. There is a large Lecture and Sunday-School room; there are several parlors, and a convenient and comfortable study and library room for the pastor; this latter has a communication by a stairway with the main audience room upstairs. These several rooms are all handsomely and appropriately finished and furnished.
To W. W. Boyington, Esq., of Chicago, the architect, the society and the public generally are indebted for the rare taste which has succeeded in combining so much beauty and utility as mark the construction of this edifice.
The congregation is a wealthy one, nearly all its members being men of substance. The society was organized on the 11th of June, 1836, just thirty years ago, by a small number of persons consisting of N. H. Boiles, E. E. Hunter, A. A. Marble, Chester Tupper, S. G. Trowbridge and A. C. Bennett. The society thus organized, had their religious service for a number of years at Mechanics’ Hall, in the old saloon building, south-east corner of Lake and Clark street.
The first church was dedicated October 23, 1844, and was located on Washington street. In January of the year preceding, the Reverend Wm. E. Manley, accepted a call and remained in charge until late in 1845, when he was succeeded by the Reverend Samuel P. Skinner. He was in turn succeeded by the Reverend Samuel B. Mason, in January, 1853. During the gentleman’s pastorage, the congregation which had now grown in numbers and in wealth, decided to have a new church, and the present St. Pul’s was the result of their deliberation. The building committee consisted of R. K. Swift, Henry Vreeland, R. F. Walker, Jacob Gage, S. P. Skinner, H. H. Husted, P. B. Ring and M. D. Gilman. The first board of trustees were M. D. Gilman, H. H. Husted and E. G. Hall. The trustees for the present year are O. L. Wheelock, Wm. H. Arnold and George W. Gage.
In October, 1855, the Reverend W. H. King succeeded Mr. Mason as pastor, and on the occurrence of vacancy in 1859, Dr. Ryder, the present pastor, was called, and entered upon his duties in January, 1860.
The society has always been a harmonious one, and from time to time as the city has increased in population, and extended its area, other Universalist churches have been built and societies formed, without however breaking of disturbing the unity of St. Paul’s. Ex-Mayor John C. Haines, and Ex-Mayor F. C. Sherman, both old citizens of Chicago, have been and still are members of the congregation. The Reverend Dr. Ryder is one of the most generally known, and at the same time popular clergymen in Chicago. He is a man of unbounded charity in his views, a ripe scholar, and a polished rhetorician. The earnestness and dignity with which he discharges the duties of his office, have that naturalness that never fails to give these qualities the force that should always be the result of them. His personal property is not limited to the members of his own religious society, it is as extensive as is his acquaintance, and thousands who have never seen or heard Dr. Ryder, have learned to admire and esteem him for his professional and official virtues. When called to St. Paul’s, he was pastor of the Universalist Church at Roxbury, Massachusetts, here he had been since 1850. Previous to that time, he had spent several years in Europe, and in the far east. At Berlin he remained long enough to acquire a knowledge of the German, and profit under the lectures and teachings of Neander and other philosophers and scholars. He is yet a young man, and in his own church ranks among the highest of the clergy.
James A, Sheahan, Esq.,
St. Paul’s Universalist Church
John Carbutt, Photographer
History of Chicago, Volume I, A. T. Andreas, 1885
The First Universalist Church.—The first attempt to organize a Universalist Church in Chicago was made in 1836. In that year Rev. William Queal preached to a small congregation, and on the nth of June organized the society which consisted of N. H. Bolles, E. E. Hunter, A. N. Marble, Chester Tupper, S. G. Trowbridge and S. C. Bennett, who worshiped for a number of years in Mechanic’s Hall, in the old Saloon Building. Other places were occasionally occupied, as Bennett’s school-house, and the court-room. For a number of years the congregations were quite small, but among them were several persons who afterward became prominent and leading citizens. Previous to 1843 the Church had no regular minister, but depended upon missionaries as supplies. The first church building erected by this society was located on Washington Street, near the Clark-street Methodist Episcopal church. It was a frame building, thirty by forty-five feet in size, and cost $2,000. It was dedicated October 23, 1844, by Rev. William E. Manley, D. D., who had accepted a call to the Church in the preceeding January. Mr. Manley had preached for the Church in 1842. He remained pastor until 1845, when he was succeeded by Rev. Samuel P. Skinner, who was succeeded in October, 1855, by Rev. Samuel B. Mason. During Mr. Mason’s pastorate the congregation had grown so large that a new church edifice became a necessity. Movements were therefore instituted looking to the erection of a building which should be a monument of architectural grandeur and beauty, and furnish the Church, which had become the leading Universalist Society of the Northwest, with a permanent religious home. A building committee was appointed consisting of R. K. Swift, Henry Vreeland, B. F. Walker, Jacob Gage, S. P. Skinner, H. H. Husted, P. B. King, and M. D. Gilman. The first board of trustees consisted of M. D. Gilman, H. H. Husted and E. G. Hall. During the pastorate of Rev. Mr. Mason the new church building, which was a remarkably attractive edifice, was completed. W. W. Boyington was the architect. The location of this building was at the southwest corner of Wabash Avenue and Van Buren Street. The dimensions of the building were seventy feet fronting on Wabash Avenue, and one hundred and eight feet deep on Van Buren Street, including the projection of the towers and turrets. The style of architecture was Gothic, with lancet-head windows and doors. The front of the building was very graceful, the tower and spire in the center, the spire reaching to a height of one hundred and seventy-five feet. There was a turret on each front corner, and three entrances in the front, opening into a spacious vestibule. The exterior walls were of stone, rock faced, the spire and pinnacles being of wood. The main auditorium was on the second floor; was fifty-eight by seventy-five feet in size, with galleries, and afforded comfortable seating for eight hundred people. The height of the walls was twenty-eight feet, and the ceiling was forty-three feet high in the center. The pulpit was erected in an octagonal recess. There was a very fine organ, erected by Mr. Erben. The basement was ten feet feet high in the clear and was elegantly fitted up for its purposes. The cost of this building was $60,000. The dedication occurred May 7, 1857, Rev. E. H. Chapin, of New York City, preaching the sermon. The first church building of this society was sold to the Olivet Presbyterian Church. The successor in the pulpit of Rev. Samuel B. Mason, was Rev. William W. King, who commenced his pastorate in August, 1857, and was succeeded by Rev. William H. Ryder, on Sunday, January 1, i860. The legal title of the parish is the First Universalist Society of Chicago, but it is generally known as St. Paul’s Universalist Church.
History of Chicago, Volume II, A. T. Andreas, 1885
THE UNIVERSALIST CHURCH.
The First Universalist Church.—The history of this Church was continued in the first volume down to the pastorate of Rev. William W. King, who preached his farewell sermon June 26, 1859. The pulpit was vacant about six months, and during this time the Society made efforts to pay off its debts. In October, $18,500 were raised in three days, and a short time
afterward $2,500 additional. In December, a call was extended to Rev. W. H. Ryder, of Roxbury, Mass., to become pastor of this Church, which he accepted, and entered upon his duties January 8, 1860. He was installed
on the 7th of February, following, the installation sermon being preached by Rev. J. S. Dennis, and the hymn that was sung being composed for the occasion by Mrs. Mary A. Livermore. The pastorate of Rev. W. H. Ryder was one of the longest and most successful of any in Chicago, extending from the date given above to 1882. A summary of its results, therefore, is necessarily deferred.
During the first four years of Dr. Ryder’s pastorate, the sum of $37,000 was subscribed, and in May, 1866, the Society purchased a lot on the corner of Wabash Avenue and VanBuren Street, adjoining the church-lot on the north, and donated the larger part of it to Dr. Ryder, who erected thereon a pastoral residence, and during the six years that had elapsed, $80,000 had been subscribed for Society purposes. On April 26, 1868, Dr. Ryder delivered his farewell address, previous to his departure to Europe for the benefit of his health. During his absence, his pulpit was supplied by Rev. Sumner Ellis. On June 11, 1869, Dr. Ryder returned, and was given a warm reception by his Church. The work of the Church went on steadily and successfully until the 9th of October, 1871, when the building, which had so long been the pride of the Society, was reduced to a heap of ruins. The loss thus amounted to about $75,000.