1841-1941: A brief summary
As the city of Manchester grew with the development of the Amoskeag textile mills, English Anglicans arrived in great numbers. Having had textile experience in England, they found jobs here as skilled workers. Their situation prompted an attempt to organize an Anglican group, so the Rev. Peter Ten Boeck, rector of St. Paul’s in Concord, was invited to conduct a service in the form of the Church of England as adapted in America and called the Episcopal Church of the United States. Consequently, the first Episcopal service held in Manchester took place on July 11, 1841, in the brick school house still standing on the corner of Lowell and Chestnut Streets.* During the next few months, services were held in various halls then existing in what is now downtown Manchester, with several clergymen from the area officiating. Because there seemed to be enough interest, a parish was formally organized on November 29, 1841. The Rev. William H. Moore, who had helped with the organization, was invited to become the first rector, and he took up his duties on Christmas Eve. William A. Burke and J. S. T. Cushing were elected wardens. At the Diocesan Convention in Hopkinton in 1842, St. Michael’s Church in Manchester was formally admitted to the Diocese, which was under the care of Bishop Alexander Griswold of the whole Eastern Diocese (all New England, excluding Connecticut). St. Michael’s received financial aid from other parishes and from the National Board of Missions. When Bishop Griswold died in 1843, the Rev. Carleton Chase was elected the first Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire.
Because growth was sufficiently encouraging, the parish soon decided that the time had arrived to build its own church. The Amoskeag Manufacturing Company donated a plot of land at the corner of Lowell and Pine Streets, two thousand dollars was raised as a building fund, and the new church was consecrated by Bishop Eastburn of Massachusetts on December 28, 1843. (Bishop Chase had not yet been consecrated.) The new church was variously described as having been “in the Grecian style” and also as “barn-like”. The parish expanded rapidly enough so that under the Rev. Isaac Hubbard, its third rector, plans for a larger church on the same lot were made. New York architect Richard Upjohn’s plans were accepted, except for a proposed chapel north of the nave and a clock in the steeple. The old church was cut into halves and moved – the front part to the south side of Merrimack Street between Beech and Maple (#277) where it still stands as part of an apartment house, and the back half to the south side of Hanover Street between Chestnut and Elm, where it was destroyed by fire in 1870.
The new building, with the new name of Grace Church, was begun on June 5, 1860, and consecrated on December 4, 1860, by Bishop Chase. During the next 25 years the structure and ornamentation of the church underwent many changes. In 1886 the need for a parish house became evident. The Upjohn firm was again engaged as architects so that the addition, built upon available land to the north of the church, was made externally very similar to the original adjacent church building. It contained a ground-floor “audience” room, seating 250 people; a ladies’ parlor; and, upstairs, a kitchen and a dining room.
By 1890, the parish had two full-fledged missions, St. Matthew’s in Goffstown and St. Andrew’s in West Manchester. In 1894, the Diocesan report listed Grace Church as the largest parish in the Diocese, having 499 communicants. Another mission was started in East Manchester in 1902, but the project was abandoned within a year or two. Shortly thereafter, on December 8, 1907, the Rev. George Robinson Hazard began his ministry, and he served 26 years. He was especially active in matters of religious education, Sunday School, and youth groups.
In 1912, a new organ by M. P. Moeller was installed, and in 1913, a new parish house, the gift of Josiah Carpenter and his wife in memory of their daughter, Georgia Gerrish, was completed. This was on land just west of the original plot. It was designed by Cram, Goodhue, and Ferguson of Boston and matched the Gothic style of the church. Subsequently, alterations were begun on the former parish house to transform it into a Chapel in memory of Miss Emily Smith.** Again, the alterations were designed by Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson. Windows in the north aisle of the Church were replaced by the present arches, providing direct entrance to the new chapel.
By the end of 1917, there were 37 men from the parish in military service.
Mr. Hazard died after a long disabling illness in 1934. His successor, the Rev. Erville Maynard, arrived after serving in Boston, and the parish soon purchased the house at 136 Lowell Street, which served as the rectory for 34 years. With the arrival in November, 1939, of the Rev. Lorin Bradford Young, the parish approached its centennial year with plans for celebration and remembrance.
(From the parish history, 1941-1991, by Samuel M. Brooks and Dorothy French)
* The brick building was purchased in 2008 by the New Hampshire Institute of Art, and was moved toward Lowell Street to make room for the construction of a new dormitory building for the Institute behind it, to the northwest of the Grace Church property.
** The chapel is dedicated to St. Michael.
History since 1941
Grace Church in the twentieth century has continued to be a vibrant and active faith community. Remarkable stability has been provided by the fact that there have been only six rectors since 1907. The Rev. Lorin Bradford “Brad” Young, an active crusader for peace and social justice, was known as a beloved and devoted pastor by all with whom he came in contact – including the Manchester Union-Leader, which dubbed him “Manchester’s Good Shepherd on a Bicycle” on the occasion of his retirement in 1968, after twenty-seven years of raking him over the coals for his “liberal” politics. Dr. Harry Whittemore retired as organist in 1963 after an astonishing 63 years of service to the church. Brad Young was followed by the Rev. George L. Werner, the Rev. David W. Robinson, and the Rev. Charles J. Blauvelt. Miss Abbie Warburton was parish worker, secretary, and Sunday school teacher for many decades, assisted by her sister Mabel; the library is dedicated to her.
The changes at Grace Church over this period of time mirrored those in the wider church, including growth and then decline in membership, the opening of leadership roles to women, and the revision of the Prayer Book. The Rev. Ann Webb was an assistant clergyperson at Grace from 1977 to 1979, and upon her ordination to the priesthood in 1978 because the second female priest to be ordained in the Diocese of New Hampshire. The parish house was renovated in 1989 and the sanctuary was extensively remodeled in 2003.
In 2009 and beyond, Grace Church continues to serve a vital function as a welcoming parish in the heart of downtown Manchester, doing its best to live out the mission of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire: “Infinite Respect for One Another, Radical Hospitality for the World.”