St. Paul’s Church was founded in 1835 at a time of renewed growth and vitality in the Mid-Hudson Valley by several businessmen who were parishioners of Christ Church. It was founded to provide a spiritual home for residents of the newly developed North side area of Poughkeepsie. The parish has continued to minister faithfully to the needs of the congregation and community.
Morning Prayer was read on two successive Sundays, September 20th and 27th, 1835 in the newly built Mansion House that faced the park on the Square. On Monday, September 28, 1835, a small group of Christ Church Vestrymen walked or rode to the Mansion Square Park and held the first public meeting to organize what was to become St. Paul’s Church, by electing church wardens and vestry.
The original St. Paul’s was consecrated by The Rt. Rev. Benjamin Tredwell Onderdonk, D.D. on July 28, 1837. The congregation grew, and in 1870 it was decided that a new and larger church building was needed. The new and present church was built on what is now North Hamilton and Mansion Streets in the City of Poughkeepsie. It was built with native stone in he Norman-Gothic style, and could seat 350 people. The South Transept, the bell tower, and the Narthex were added at a later date. On September 11, 1873, Bishop Horatio Potter consecrated this new structure. The property for the Parish House that includes the Rector’s study and Ladies Parlor was purchased and added in 1882.
St. Paul’s has many beautiful stained glass windows in memory of parishioners. We have five memorial tablets. One of these tablets is to Mr. James Emmott. Mr. Emmott was the first mayor of the City of Poughkeepsie when it became incorporated in 1854. He served as a vestryman for 18 years.
In 1956, a Building Committee of twelve men was appointed to study the need for more space because of increased Church School attendance. A new education building was completed in 1957 and dedicated to the memory of The Rev. Francis S. Smithers, Jr., Rector 1918-1925, and The Rev. Roland J. Bunten, Rector 1925-1950. The Bishop of New York consecrated the building on October 25, 1958. Many programs and organizations have been housed in St. Paul’s education building, such as the Living Room, a program for persons in need of support for problems such as homelessness, chemical and alcohol dependency, etc., sponsored by the Mental Health Association; Well-Baby Clinc; Krissler Business School; AA and NA groups. Today the Community Trasition Center operates an alternative to incarceration program for young men and women that is funded by the Dutchess County Probation Department. For sixteen years the Lunch Box, a soup kitchen sponsored by a community based organization, Dutchess Outreach, was housed in the undercroft of the church building.
In 1979, properties were purchased for the establishment of a parking lot to eliminate the need for on street parking. To supplement the upkeep of the parking lot, Theresa Butler opened the Buy Rite thrift shop in the undercroft; which continues today as the Small Blessings Shop.
Typical of many churches, St. Paul’s has faced difficulties, but has continued to overcome them. The parish grew and worship attendance was high until the 1960’s and 1970’s, when churches throughout the country faced a decline in attendance due to the movement to suburbia.
St. Paul’s has had 14 Rectors and two Priests-In-Charge. All of our clerics have left their ‘mark’ on St. Paul’s in one way or another. The United States faced another Depression in 1837 with Poughkeepsie being seriously affected. In 1842, a question arose about the advisability of closing the Church doors. The Church’s early history recounts continuous struggle and sacrifices to keep its doors open.
A turning point occured with the arrival of The Rev. Dr. Albert D. Traver, who became our rector in 1846, and was a pioneer in mulitcultural diversity. He accepted the rectorship of our church on condition that he be allowed to continue his ministry to German immigrants one Sunday a month in Clinton, New York. The Church grew beyond its boundaries and gained some financial security. Dr. Traver’s death was deeply felt, not only by his parish, but also by the entire community.
The Rev. William T. Gray, our 12th rector, was instrumental in the Education Building becoming a reality to over 400 Sunday School children.
The Rev. Robert L. Leather, our 14th rector, was called to St. Paul’s Church in 1977 during a time of change in the neighborhood. He helped to established programs to reach out to the poor on the North side of Poughkeepsie. His willingness to say yes to housing the Lunch Box program, allowing space for Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, the Living Room, and the establishment of Hudson River Housing gives us another reason to be proud of the history and space that St. Paul’s hold in the City of Poughkeepsie.
The Rev. James B de Fontaine-Stratton served God at St. Paul’s from 1999 to 2004. He helped foster improved relations with the Diocese of New York and pastored to the church as it recovered from a fire in 2003. Our present pastor is The Rev. Tyler Jones.