Applications Videos

Historic Properties

Properties For Sale

About the Commission

Browse By Topic

Local History

Links

Home


BACKGROUND INFORMATION

St. Peter's Episcopal Church, organized as a parish in 1844, has played a central role in the religious and humanitarian life of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, most notably by fostering the creation of other Episcopal parishes, including St. Martin's, St. Mark's, the Church of the Holy Comforter, St. Michael and All Angels, and by founding St. Peter's Hospital (1876), Thompson Orphanage (1886), and Good Samaritan Hospital (1891).

The major growth of St. Peter's began during the Civil War. During the Civil War, St. Peter's joined with five other parishes to import Bibles and Prayer Books from England to distribute to Confederate soldiers. In mid-1864, the consortium bought five bales of cotton in Wilmington, which were run through the Union blockade and sold in England, where the money was used to have an edition of the Prayer Book of the Church in the Confederate States printed, and buy Bibles. These in turn were run back through the blockade to Wilmington for distribution. and it is believed that "the only Confederate Prayer Books used in the South during the War were those brought in by this combination of North Carolina parishes. "

The War also brought many prominent Confederates to Charlotte who worshipped at St. Peters. Already the temporary refuge for many of the wives and children of military and government officials by 1865, during April 19-26 of that year the city became the temporary capital of the dying Confederacy. Charlotteans struggled to house and feed the beleaguered Jefferson Davis, his Cabinet and staff, one thousand cavalry, numerous lesser officials and straggling soldiers. The Attorney General stayed with William Myers, one of the vestry of St. Peter's. On Friday, April 14th, President Lincoln was shot, and died the next day. Jefferson Davis found out the afternoon of Tuesday, April 18th not long after he arrived in town and was addressing a welcoming crowd at the Bates home on South Tryon Street. The following Sunday, April 23rd, he and a number of other Confederate officials were at the service in St. Peter's. where they heard a sermon by Rev. George Everhart lamenting the tragic event.

With the end of Reconstruction and the advent of Near South industrialization in the late 1800s, the population and prosperity of the city, and the work of the church all grew at an increasingly rapid pace. In 1872, the rector, Rev. Benjamin S. Bronson, received a gift from the family of Lewis Thompson, a deceased parishioner from Bertie, for his new St. Peter's School. Renamed the Thompson Institute, a hall eras constructed on eighty acres on the southern edge of the city purchased for the project. The institute eventually failed, but in 1886 was turned into an orphanage, the state's second, and the first to be established by a religious organization and completely funded by private donations. It is presently the site, among other things, of St. Mary's Chapel, and forty of the acres were leased to the developers of Charlottetown Mall, the city's first indoor shopping mall (now Midtown Square).

The parishioners of St. Peter's were also responsible for the establishment of two hospitals in the city, one for whites and one for blacks. The first was St. Peter's Home and Hospital, opened on January 20, 1876 in two rented rooms on 7th Street with two patients, a Baptist and a Methodist. In 1877, Miss Hattie Moore's "Busy Bees," from her Select School for Girls, raised money for the purchase of a lot at Poplar and 6th Street (for $273.12), and later that year Bishop Atkinson laid the cornerstone for a four-room hospital that was completed the following year. Money was raised for the building by the vestry and the St. Peter's Church Aid Society, of which Jane Smedberg Wilkes (1827-1913), who had cared for Civil War wounded and was an early advocate for a hospital, was secretary-treasurer and chief fund-raiser. Serving alternatively as president, secretary or treasurer of the board of managers for the hospital, she was also instrumental in raising the funds for expansions of St. Peter's in 1898 and 1907. She later became known as the "Godmother of Charlotte Hospitals." The home and hospital, which provided temporary care for "destitute and sick persons as could not be otherwise provided for," closed and its patients were transferred to Charlotte Memorial in 1940.

In 1881, Rev. Joseph Blount Cheshire (later Bishop of North Carolina) became rector, and was quite interested in extending the religious ministry of the church. The following year, he started a mission to the black population of the city, which became the Church of St. Michael and All Angels at Mint and Hill Streets in Third Ward. Mrs. Wilkes began raising money for a companion hospital, and in 1887 property was bought on Hill Street between Mint and Graham for the building. At the cornerstone laying in 1888, clergy from both the black and white communities attended, and Dr. Matoon, president of Biddle Institute (now Johnson C. Smith University) was one of the speakers. When it opened in 1891, under the board of managers who were all women of the church led by Mrs. Wilkes, a hospital exclusively for blacks was not only unique to Charlotte, but perhaps to the state and one of the few in the nation. Major additions to the hospital were made in 1925 and 1937, and in 1959 it too was taken over by Memorial Hospital. Expanded again in 1961, it operated as Charlotte Community Hospital until 1982, when it was renovated for housing for the elderly. [It has since been demolished.]

THINGS TO LOOK FOR

  • Having trouble identifying brick patterns, shingle patterns, or other parts? See the Illustrated Guidebook for help!
  • The 1893 building of St. Peter's Church is an excellent example of the late Victorian approach to Gothic architecture. It has a cruciform (cross-shaped) plan and uses the pointed arches that are Gothic trademarks. The front facade is asymmetrical, however, with a tower containing the main entrance at the north corner, and a one-story semi-circular baptistry and a one-story side vestibule projecting at the south corner. The architect chose his materials to achieve ornamental effect: smooth light-red brick, rough dark-red brick, molded ornamental brick, smooth-carved brown sandstone, rough-faced brown sandstone, plus wooden window and door frames. The variety of natural color and texture produce a decoration that is integral to the building, rather than just added on.
  • The front of the church features a large round window above a row of six tall and narrow rectangular windows. The round window is now a "rose window ," with spoke-like stone or concrete mullions dating from the 1948-51 renovations.
  • Next to the entrance is the sandstone cornerstone with the carved notation "St. Peter's Church Built 1857: Rebuilt 1890 -1892. Domus Dei Ports Coeli." ( It was common practice in the period to talk of a church being "rebuilt" even if the congregation constructed an entirely new building, and it was also common practice to carve the cornerstone before construction was completed, and usually even before it was begun).

    ACTIVITIES

  • Sketch and identify all of the brick patterns you see on the building.
  • Notice the different patterns of roof shingles. Sketch each pattern and identify it.
  • Sketch the rose window on the front facade and label it.
  • Compare St. Peter's Episcopal Church with other Gothic Revival churches you have seen on the tour. Look for these characteristics as points of comparison: building material, spires (are there any and, if so, where are they placed?), towers (are there any and, if so, where are they placed?), windows (size, shape, location, type of tracery), stone or brick patterns (identify each pattern). Compare this church with these: Grace AME Zion, First Presbyterian, First United Presbyterian, and First United Methodist Church. You'll notice that there is quite a variety of buildings under the Gothic Revival umbrella!
  •