• St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Edenton NC

St Paul's Episcopal Church, Edenton, NC

St. Paul’s is North Carolina’s oldest incorporated church. “The parish was organized in 1701 as the first parish in the colony under the provisions of the Vestry Act of 1701. A post-in-ground church building was erected the next year on an undetermined plot of land just east of Queen Anne’s Creek on what is now known as the Hayes farm; Edenton would not be founded for another eleven years. By 1736, perhaps when the post-in-ground chapel had outlived its usefulness, it was decided to build a new church in the bustling town of Edenton, which was also the colony’s capital. Here, the church occupied the lots set aside for church and churchyard (cemetery) before 1722 and construction began on a brick building that followed a form popular in Virginia.

On October 15, 1736, the Williamsburg Virginia Gazette reported that “a large, handsome Brick Church, with Steeple, is shortly to be built” in Edenton, with “many of the Bricks being already burnt.” By the summer of 1740 work had come to a halt for lack of funds. Aided in part by a tithe of two shillings per poll levied by the colonial Assembly, work resumed and by July 1746, the roof had been raised; however, it was left uncovered for another two years. The church was completed enough for the Vestry to meet in the building for the first time on April 10, 1760. Even then, the windows were unglazed until 1767 and the interior woodwork not finished until 1774.

“St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the second oldest church building in North Carolina and the oldest in regular use, is a landmark in the development of religious architecture in the state. Described by architectural historian Thomas T. Waterman as “an ideal in village churches,” the handsome Flemish bond brick edifice is one of the most important colonial period buildings in Edenton; indeed, in 1856, David Hunter Strother, writing under the name “Porte Crayon,” referred to the church as the “pet” of the town.

The exterior stands today much as it was first built, except for the spire, which was not added until 1809.

In 1947, examination of the building revealed termite damage, loose plaster, and roof deterioration. After detailed architectural studies and drawings, everything that could be removed from the interior, including the flooring, was taken out for storage. Archaeological investigation located all nine graves known to be under the church, and enough of the original floor tiles to provide for their reproduction. The farsighted removal and documentation of the woodwork was fortunate, for on June 1, 1949, the building burned - galleries, roof, and spire. Because the brick walls were not harmed (there apparently not being sufficient woodwork left inside to generate high enough temperatures), the building could be rebuilt” with many of the original interior components.”

Text taken from Edenton: An Architectural Portrait by Tom Butchko