The Rapidian

Discover legendary St. Mark Episcopal Church's 175-year-old history

Join us at 7 p.m. Thursday as Karen Hunter explores the rich history of St. Mark Episcopal Church, a downtown landmark that can trace its beginnings to 1836.
St. Mark's Episcopal Church is located at 134 Divison Avenue North

St. Mark's Episcopal Church is located at 134 Divison Avenue North

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St. Mark's Episcopal Church's rich 175-year-old history

The historic church began in 1836 before Grand Rapids was even a city when 17 struggling villagers in a community of only 500 incorporated the congregation as an Episcopal parish. Its first small-frame structure consecrated in 1841 was erected at a cost of $800. Construction of the existing church began in 1848 using limestone hauled from the Grand River by horses.

Early photo of St. Mark's Church, date unknown. Its towers were added in 1851 followed by a bell in 1865 and organ in 1867.

Early photo of St. Mark's Church, date unknown. Its towers were added in 1851 followed by a bell in 1865 and organ in 1867. /Courtesy of the Grand Rapids History & Special Collections Archives, Grand Rapids Public Library

The historic church stands proud in the downtown skyline increasingly growing with taller more modern structures.

The historic church stands proud in the downtown skyline increasingly growing with taller more modern structures.

Join us Thursday evening, January 12 as we explore the legendary history of St. Mark Episcopal Church, a proud downtown landmark that can trace its beginnings to 1836.  Called the church of mayors, St. Mark's members have been longtime noteworthy political and business leaders in Grand Rapids and in the nation.  

This free, armchair, look back in time begins at 7 p.m. in the church's awe-inspiring  19th century Gothic Revival church nestled downtown at 134 Division Avenue North.  Built with limestone hauled to the site by horses from the Grand River and consecrated in 1849, St. Mark's is the oldest public building still standing in the city. The interior features original exquisite hand-carved woodwork.

Karen Hunter from St. Mark's Church will guide you on a fascinating journey starting in 1836 when 17 struggling villagers in a community of only 500 incorporated the congregation as an Episcopal parish. It's first church was a small-framed structure consecrated in 1841 at a cost of $800. Construction of the existing building began in 1848. The stately towers with belfries were added in 1851 followed by a bell in 1865 and an organ in 1867. Woven into the church's captivating history is the pivotal role many church members played in the establishment of the City of Grand Rapids. 

Today, the namesakes of many St. Mark's pioneering members live on in the city with their names marked on parks, streets and institutions. Among them are the familiar family names of Wealthy, Butterworth, Kendall, and Morrison.  Hunter will also share the church's grand musical history and its place in the community today.

Other stories to be told by Hunter involve the "Disappearing Deacon" and his French pony as well as the reasons the church's first bell weighed 1,020 pounds.

Please join us during this engaging trip back in time! The event is co-sponsored by the Grand Rapids Historical Society and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. It is free and open to the public.  Limited free parking is available in the lot directly north of the church. Other parking is available at the southwest corner of Pearl Street and Ionia Avenue. 

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