The Founding of St. Andrew’s


photo: the first church

The first building, 1897-1931, on the site of the present parish hall

St. Andrew’s was first established as a mission by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in 1892 to serve the growing population in the western part of the City of Albany. The congregation drawn to the new mission soon sought to establish itself as an independent church. In the essay excerpted below, The Reverend Ralph Birdsall, first Rector of St. Andrew’s, recounts the founding of the mission and the establishment of the parish.

On July 3, 1892, The Rev. Freeborn Garrettson Jewett, assistant minister of St. Paul’s Church… began holding services in the rooms of the Building and Loan Association on Madison Avenue next door to the northeast corner of Ontario Street. One service each Sunday, evensong in the afternoon, not to conflict with the evening service at St. Paul’s, was held during the summer of 1892. … In November of 1892 the scene of the work changed to more commodious if not less dingy quarters in the old school building on Ontario Street at the rear of Public School No. 4.Herbert J. Hamilton, H. W. Myers and Arthur Clapton were licensed as lay readers and helped to carry on the services as well as the material work of the mission. These young men were members of the St. Paul’s chapter of St. Andrew’s Brotherhood and when the mission sign swung from the porch of the abandoned schoolhouse it bore the name of “St. Andrew’s Chapel”. … On January 29, 1893, the Holy Communion was celebrated at the mission and after that date morning services were held each Sunday as well as evening. …

Some were of the opinion that the new chapel should be much farther west than Quail Street. Others believed that a site much further from the city should be selected. St. Paul’s Vestry seemed, as a whole, inclined to doubt the wisdom of a move in any direction. … (The) gentlemen gave much time and thought to the question of the proper site and their efforts subsequently resulted in the choice of the lot at the southeast corner of Western Avenue and Main. By the middle of June 1897, the first shovelful of earth for the foundation had been turned up by the Rev. F. G. Jewett, and the new St. Andrew’s Chapel was a certainty. On Monday, July 19, 1897, the cornerstone was laid by the Rev. Mr. Jewett with appropriate ceremonies. …

The chapel was built by Giek and Sayles and cost, including the lot, about $10,000. The plans called for a wooden structure, but Mr. Giek assumed the responsibility of building of brick at an extra cost of $600 which was to be made good when the congregation could afford it. It was a fortunate thing in many other ways that the building of the new chapel was entrusted to the generous hands of Mr. Giek. … The chapel was completed before the end of November, and in the night of St. Andrew’s Day 1897 the service for the benediction of the building was solemnized. …

The oversight of affairs at the chapel was entrusted to a committee of St. Paul’s Vestry. … The movement toward the establishment of an independent parish was gradual but inevitable. For the gains made in the neighborhood of St. Andrew’s Chapel were among those who had no association with the history of St. Paul’s Church. Nearly every addition to the congregation, which rapidly increased, was in the nature of a case an added strain upon the ties, sentimental and ecclesiastical, which connected St. Andrew’s Chapel to St. Paul’s Church.

In Easter week, 1899, the local committee of St. Andrew’s Chapel petitioned the Vestry of St. Paul’s Church that St. Andrew’s be made an independent parish, with the Rev. Ralph Birdsall, assistant minister of St. Paul’s Church, as rector. Mr. Jewett and the senior warden of St. Paul’s Church, Mr. John H. VanAntwerp, were opposed to the proposition on the ground that St. Andrew’s was not financially strong enough to stand alone since, while local expenses had been met by the chapel congregation, the services of the assistant minister had been furnished by St. Paul’s Church. … The Vestry’s reply to the committee of St. Andrew’s Chapel agreed to the proposition on condition that the congregation assume first, a debt of $2,000, being a sum loaned by Mr. VanAntwerp for the construction of the chapel; secondly $1,500, the sum of certain legacies to St. Paul’s Church to be used only within St. Paul’s Parish.

On the evening of May 3 a meeting of the congregation was held in St. Andrew’s Chapel at which it was unanimously voted to accept the proposition of St. Paul’s’ Vestry. The aggregate sum of over seventeen hundred dollars was then and there subscribed in annual pledges for the support of the new church. … The transfer of the property was delayed all summer by legal negotiations. It was decided to mortgage the property of St. Andrew’s for $5,000 in order to raise the $3,500 due to St. Paul’s Church and to leave a surplus for securing the land lying between St. Andrew’s Church and Madison Avenue.