The Episcopal Parish of Alton is a historic 179-year-old parish located north of the St. Louis metropolitan area along the Mississippi River in Illinois. We have two (2) worship sites – St. Paul’s Church, located in downtown Alton on the corner of Market & Third Streets, and Trinity Chapel located on State Street in North Alton.
St. Paul’s, the larger worship site, boasts a history nearly as old as that of the state of Illinois. Bishop Kemper of Missouri noted that a gathering of Episcopalians convened in Alton in early 1836 to elect a vestry and organize as St. Paul’s Church. Captain Benjamin Godfrey, a retired steamboat captain, and businessman who had established his residence in nearby Godfrey noticed the thriving town of Alton had no church buildings. Using his own funds, he constructed a building in 1834 and offered its use to all organized religious groups until selling it to the Episcopalians in 1845 for $1,800 when it became St. Paul’s property.
Over the years, St. Paul’s has undergone several restorations and in the mid-1970s the congregation made a conscious decision to remain in its urban setting. Some of the original foundation walls of the 1834 structure and an 1856 renovation still support the neo-gothic, limestone building to this day. In 1913, the parish built an addition for offices and meeting rooms, razed an existing rectory during the 1950s which is now the site of our beautiful garden, and erected our present-day Parish Hall and Education building in 1960.
At the entrance to the main worship space, St. Paul’s includes a narthex and two small chapels; a tiny chapel for private meditation and a baptistery now housing a columbarium of 24 niches.
Our other worship site, Trinity Chapel, has an even older history, although not a continuous one. Records in the year 1823 attest to the establishment of Trinity Church in Alton and attribute its fading from existence due to lack of a priest. By 1870, this congregation was well-established when a group of Episcopalians meeting at a private residence in North Alton outgrew the home and decided to build a chapel on land next to the home which would serve as a parochial Sunday School Mission. They built a structure of traditional Colonial design for a cost of $2,200. The Sunday School Mission had twelve (12) teachers with nearly ninety (90) neighborhood children in attendance. Eventually, the Sunday School moved to St. Paul’s in 1942 while Trinity Chapel remains a place of worship to this day. Modernizations, including the purchase of an adjacent lot to provide additional parking, keep this small, charming chapel up-to-date.
The history, architectural significance, and awe-inspiring stained glass windows that grace the simple loveliness of both St. Paul’s Church and Trinity Chapel make them frequent stops on local tours showcasing historical landmarks in our area. Throughout several generations, parishioners in the Episcopal Parish of Alton have been blessed to worship God in all His glory surrounded not only by the “beauty of holiness” but also the “holiness of beauty.”