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Home North Carolina Chowan County City of Edenton Historical Markers St. Paul's Episcopal Church

St. Paul's Episcopal Church

North Broad Street, Edenton, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 36° 4' 35.9148", -76° 35' 28.77"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Parish formed in 1701, present structure begun in 1736, succeeding two earlier wooden buildings."
    St. Paulís Episcopal Church in Edenton serves the oldest parish in North Carolina. The church has its beginnings in the Vestry Act of 1701, legislation intended as a catalyst for religious growth in the natal colony. The law divided North Carolina into five districts or parishes, and granted a vestry, or council of twelve members, the authority to tax landowners in order to build churches and assist the under-privileged. In December of 1701, the local vestry met at the house of Thomas Gilliam, near what would later be the town of Edenton. The council decided to construct a small wooden church on land donated by Edward Smithwick, presently Hayes Plantation.

    The first church was rudimentary at best. After the incorporation of Edenton, construction began on a permanent replacement in 1736, on a tract of land more conveniently located within the city. Plagued by delays due to insufficient funding, the building was left open to the elements until the roof was completed in 1748; the final phase of intermittent construction ended in 1774.
    In 1806, after the building had undergone years of disrepair following the Revolutionary War, English architect William Nichols led renovation efforts that included a spire and revitalized interior. In 1881, black congregants split from St. Paulís to form St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church, also in Edenton. After a fire during renovation almost destroyed St. Paulís in 1949, a steel roof was added and the structure was rebuilt using measured drawings from the Historic American Building Survey, the findings of an architectural survey team led by Charles E. Patterson in 1933, as a guide.

    St. Paulís is easily recognizable, built in the Georgian style common during the colonial period. The exterior is similar to other period churches in Virginia and England, a rectangular frame of Flemish-bond brick. Arched windows surround the structure, with plain doors providing entry. The church cemetery contains graves dating to the early eighteenth century, although some have been moved from other cemeteries endangered by receding coastlines or unstable earth near the sounds. St. Paulís Episcopal Church in Edenton is a reminder of the beginnings of the Anglican Church in colonial North Carolina.

Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eastern North Carolina (1996)
Catherine W. Bishir, Charlotte V. Brown, and others, Architects and Builders in North Carolina: A History of the Practice of Building (1990)
Lawrence F. London and Sarah M. Lemmon, eds., The Episcopal Church in North Carolina, 1701-1959 (1987)
Chowan County website: http://www.chowancounty-nc.gov/
Historic American Building Survey website:
(see Project # HABS NC-12-G-2)

St. Paul's Episcopal Church Historical Marker Location Map, Edenton, North Carolina