St. Paul’s Church
St. Paul’s Church is an abandoned and endangered Roman Catholic church in the Capitol Region of New York. The Parish was the third oldest in the state.
The first gathering of Roman Catholic Irish immigrants along the Hudson River north of Albany was in an old school house in 1824. 1 Father Patrick McGilligan served as pastor.
The land was secured on October 28, 1828, when the church acquired a lot for six cents. 1 3 The deed stipulated that the ground was to be used as a church and that a clock and bell should be installed. 1 2 3 If the conditions were not fulfilled, the property was to revert to the original grantors.
The church was incorporated as St. Paul’s on March 12, 1827. 1 At the time, there were only two other Roman Catholic churches in the state: St. Peter’s in New York City and St. Mary’s in Albany. The new parish served a broad region, extending throughout northern New York and into Vermont and Massachusetts.
Father John Shanahan succeeded McGilligan at around the same time, who distinguished himself during an incident on St. Patrick’s Day in 1837. 1 The anti-Irish sentiment came to a head during the celebrations. To ridicule the Irish, some townspeople strung up many effigies of St. Patrick throughout the city. The Irish community attempted to tear them down in response. Disorder and riots soon took over, with stones thrown and guns fired. At least three people were wounded. The mayor called out the Troy Citizens Corps, bearing guns, to restore order. Father Shanahan, supporting the Irish, urged them to desist and return to their homes. His peacemaking efforts prevailed.
True to the deed, a small, 40-foot by 60-foot frame building, was constructed in 1830. 1 3 It was consecrated by the Rev. John Dubois, Bishop of New York. A 40-foot brick section was added in 1834 and the parish house was built in 1836. Lamps were added in 1840 followed by an organ that was purchased from Christ Episcopal Church that was paid for in installments. Up until that time, the choir accompaniment was a flute.
New Church Building
On February 10, 1848, a fire sparked by the stovepipe broke out in the church, burning the structure to the ground. 1 3 6 Construction of a new brick church was soon begun.
Bt the time the building erection had reached the roof, and before the tower and steeple could be completed, funding was exhausted. 1 Work was subsequently suspended but resumed when funds were sufficient. It was finished on December 16. 3
Land for St. Paul’s cemetery was acquired in 1857. 1
A parish school, taught by secular faculty, was started in the basement of the church in 1852. 1 Fundraising for a permanent building soon began and it was constructed in 1854. The school grew so fast that by 1861, 400 children were enrolled with just four secular teachers.
In 1862, Father James Keveny became the pastor and chose to staff the school from those at the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet, Missouri. 1 Seven sisters soon arrived in Troy who organized a select school for girls in the convent. A separate school in the lyceum was soon organized.
Rev. Patrick Ludden was made pastor of St. Paul’s in 1880. 1 During his eight year tenure, a new school building was constructed for $30,000 and the school, rectory and church was converted to steam heat. A high marble altar and stained glass windows were added to the sanctuary and some stained glass windows were added in the sanctuary.
A lyceum, for public lectures, concerts and athletics, 5 was organized in 1885. 1 2 Originally oriented as a social and athletic club for men, it later hosted French, embroidery, dancing and gymnastic classes for women. 1 It burned on November 9, 1899, but was quickly replaced with a larger facility in June 1900 at a cost of $18,000.
In 1887, Father John J. Walsh was made parish of St. Paul’s. 1 One of Walsh’s first capital projects was to repair the church which was finished in 1890. The stained glass windows were all completed and a new pulpit, altar railing, side altars and stations of the cross were installed. A new convent was then built at a cost of $20,000.
A ten-bell chime was added to the tower in 1896, a cast of Lake Superior copper and India tin by the Meneely Bell Company. 1 Above, a new Seth Thomas clock was installed. Both the chimes and clock were installed by Edward L. Kehn and Pius Kehn.
- Bell One: 3,612 pounds with an inscription: “This chime of ten bells was made for St. Paul’s Church in the Autumn of 1896, and donated by friends whose names are inscibed thereon. His Holiness, Leo XIII, being the Reigning Pontiff, Rt. Rev. Thomas M.A. Burke, Bishop of Albany, and Rev. John J. Walsh, Pastor of this church.”
- Bell Two: 2,589 pounds with an inscription: “The gift of the Congregation of St. Paul’s Church in memory of their priests.”
- Bell Three: 1,833 pounds, in memory of Henry A. Merritt and James H. Ryan.
- Bell Four 1,588 pounds, in memory of Mary Fitzgerald.
- Bell Five: 1,052 pounds, in memory of Gabrielle Mary Thacher Morris.
- Bell Six: 755 pounds, in memory of Daniel and Mary Sweeney.
- Bell Seven: 527 pounds, in memory of Catharine Fagan.
- Bell Eight: 474 pounds, in memory of Paul Kaveny.
- Bell Nine: 431 pounds, in memory of John and Mary E. Graham.
- Bell Ten: 413 pounds, in memory of Mrs. Emma Cavanagh.
A baptismal built of marble, onyx and brass was installed in the new marble baptistery in 1900. 1 In 1909, the sidewalls of the sanctuary were covered in marble, followed by the replacement of the wooden columns with marble counterparts.
Construction of a Gothic Revival style rectory was begun in 1912. 1 Built of Potsdam stone and erected by Charles F. Boland, it cost $30,000 to finish.
In 1925, Professor Leo McCarthy, who was an organist and choir director, donated a $25,000 organ to St. Paul’s. 1
St. Paul’s high school was closed in 1929 and consolidated into the new Catholic Central High School. 1 The building was repurposed for an elementary school. The Lyceum was again damaged by fire in 1930 but was repaired by the Holy Name Society.
Decline and Closure
In the mid-1960’s, urban renewal was taking root in the neighborhood. 1 Block by block, houses for the working class were razed for a proposed freeway and later, parking lots and commercial and industrial buildings. The neighborhood’s demographics rapidly changed and many of the newcomers were not Catholic, reducing the number of worshipper St. Paul’s had in its sanctuary each week.
In 2009, the diocese began a mass consolidation of its churches, closing 33 sites. 2 The last Mass at St. Paul’s, which had just celebrated its 185th anniversary, 4 was on May 31. 1 4 The parish formally closed on August 31. 3
The church was listed for sale in 2011. 2 The nearby Commission on Economic Opportunity for the Greater Capital Region (CEO) intended to purchase the church, rectory and lyceum for $255,000. The church soon rediscovered its reverter clause its deed on the church, which prevented the diocese from selling the property.
In an effort to sell the property, the diocese filed a motion in the state Supreme Court in July 2012. 2 The case had not moved forward by December 21 because there were either no heirs to be found or there were too many. The delay had led CEO to drop its offer by March 2013.