History of Calvary Episcopal Church
The Episcopal Church in Missouri
The Episcopal Church in Missouri started in St. Louis in 1819 and gradually followed the settlements along the Missouri River. By 1841, with parishes in St. Charles, Fayette, Boonville and Jefferson City, the Diocese of Missouri was formed. In May of 1855, ten residents of Columbia petitioned the Diocese, then meeting in convention in Boonville, to establish a mission in Columbia.
It was quickly approved and in September 1855, Bishop Cicero Hawks held the first service in the Methodist Church, then located at Broadway and Sixth streets. Thereafter services were held in homes, the courthouse, or other available church buildings with supply ministers riding horseback from the more established missions. During the Civil War, holding services became even more difficult.
Calvary’s First Church
Finally, the congregation decided to build its own church in hopes of attracting a full-time minister and new members. A small frame building was completed in 1872 on Broadway between Fifth and Sixth Streets. Major pieces of furniture were obtained from St. Paul’s Church in St. Louis that dated to the 1840s. Over the years many lovely memorials were added, especially by members of the Rollins family.
Easter Morning Fire
Disaster struck on Easter morning 1898 when fire broke out in the sacristy during services and destroyed the office and all records. The church was quickly repaired and services continued while members debated building the new building closer to campus. A lot was purchased on the corner of Ninth and Locust streets and the Rollins family offered to pay for the new building in memory of Captain James Hickman Rollins, who had died recently.
Architect Salvages & Builds Anew
The Rollins Family chose Miss Mary Louise Hale of Columbia as the architect, an interesting choice, as there was an experienced male architect on the vestry and few women were allowed any professional expertise in those days. She was able to salvage and reuse many of the furnishings of the earlier church, including the bell, several memorial windows, the baptismal font and window, the brass altar railing, the old carved altar and Bishop’s chair, and the original altar cross and candlesticks. The present building was finished within a year and dedicated by Bishop Daniel Tuttle in June 1899.
Modifications Since Original Build
Since then, other memorial windows have been added, the inside wooden walls stripped back to the lovely stone, and the chancel area reworked for the organ and choir. A magnificent altar window was destroyed in a windstorm many years ago and is now replaced by a simple wooden cross.
Calvary Parish House, Parish Hall & Memorial Garden
The Parish House was built to commemorate the first 100 years in 1955 and was renovated and enlarged in 2003. Here are church offices, classrooms, meeting rooms, a chapel, and a large dining room and kitchen. Between the church and Parish Hall is the enclosed Memorial Garden, a quiet oasis in the midst of a bustling city.