, , , , , , , ,

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Built in 1901, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was the first building constructed in Vernal by the Episcopal Church and the second to be built in the Uintah Basin; the first was the Indian Mission church at Randlett. Designed by John P. Hill, an architect from Salt Lake City, the building is a good example of the Gothic Revival style. St. Paul’s Lodge was constructed in 1909 as a home for girls who came to Vernal to work or attend school. It also served as the center of the auxiliary activities of the Episcopal Church in the community and, from the late 1920s until 1947, as the major hospital in the Uintah Basin. During the past forty years it has continued in use as the center of church and community activities.

Located at 226 West Main Street in Vernal, Utah and added to the National Historic Register (#85000049) on January 3, 1985.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, built in 1901, and St. Paul’s Lodge, built in 1909, are significant for their historical role as the center of the Episcopal church activities both in Vernal and in the entire Uintah Basin of northeastern Utah. Both buildings are also architecturally significant. St. Paul’s was the first building constructed by the Episcopal Church in Vernal, a predominantly Mormon town, and the second church con- structed by the Episcopal church in the Uintah Basin; the first was the Indian Mission church at Randlett, which has been moved from its original location in recent years. St. Paul’s is second only to the church at Randlett as the oldest church building of any denomination in the Uintah Basin. The building documents the spirit of expansion and missionary activity that characterized the Episcopal church in Utah at that time. Architecturally, it is significant as a good example of the Gothic Revival style. St. Paul’s Lodge, which was constructed as a home for girls who came to Vernal to work or attend school, is significant for its central role in the auxiliary activities of the Epsicopal Church in the community. The building also served as one of the early hospitals in the Uintah Basin and was the major hospital in the area between
the late 1920s and 1947. It is architecturally significant as a good example of the Craftsman style.

The Reverend O. E. Ostenson arrived in Vernal on September 20, 1900 to begin the work which would lead to the building of St. Paul’s. Regular services began on September 30, 1900 in Jake Workman’s Opera House, but were moved on October 22 to the Odd Fellows Lodge room. The first church committee was appointed by the missionary, Reverend Ostenson, on April 23, 1901.

Property was purchased by the Corporation of the Episcopal Church in Utah for $325 on the H7th of February, 1901 for construction of the church in Vernal. On May 16 of the same year, plans for the building had been completed by Salt Lake architect John P. Hill. Very little is known about Hill or his career in Utah. The church committee let the brick and stone work contract to Andrew Burkley and the carpentry work to William Cook on July 18, 1901. Ground was broken for the church on July 26. Three weeks later on August 20 the Rev. Ostenson, assisted by Indian missionary M.J. Hersey of Randlett, laid the cornerstone for the new church. With the permission of the rector, Miss Anna Forrest named the church that same day. It was named St. Paul’s after St. Paul’s Church in Washington, D.C.

Another building on the site is the parish house. Built in 1909, it was originally called St. Paul’s Lodge and was built by the Girl’s Friendly Society of New York as a home for girls who came to Vernal to attend school or to work. It also served as a center for civic activities and club meetings. In 1928, St. Paul’s church was closed because of inactivity. Four years later the lodge was sold and served for the next several years as the major hospital in Uintah County. Dr. Parley G. Eskelson ran the hospital, and even built his own house next door so that he would always be nearby. At the time that the building was converted into a hospital, its interior was renovated and remodeled in order to meet the needs of a medical care facility. The building had previously been used temporarily as a hospital during the flu epidemic of 1918, and was reportedly used again for a short time in the late 1920s under the direction of Mrs. Jane Murray.

St. Paul’s was reactivated in January of 1947 when Rev. Walter F. Cable was sent to be Deacon-in-charge by the Bishop of Utah. Two years later the lodge was repurchased by the church and has since served as the parish house with apartments for the vicar and meeting rooms for the church. The church building itself has continually remained in the hands of the Episcopal Church.

St. Paul’s Church is the second oldest religious structure still standing in the Uintah Basin. An Indian mission church of the Episcopal Church was built in Randlett in 1896, but it has been moved from its original location. St. Paul’s was completed prior to any of the existing religious buildings in the Vernal area – including LDS structures. The relatively late construction dates of church buildings in Vernal can be attributed to the fact that permanent settlers were not established in Vernal until after 1870.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is a small town parish church designed in the Gothic Revival style. It is a rectangular building and has a steeply pitched gable roof, brick exterior walls, and sandstone sills, foundation, and water tables. A large, pointed arch window is centered in the gable end wall facing the street, and it features ornate stained glass and wooden tracery elements. Two brick buttresses flank the stained glass window. The buttresses are decorative and are not repeated on the rear of the building, which has wood shingle siding instead of brick exterior walls. There are five buttresses along each side of the building which appear to be structurally supporting the roof trusses that are exposed on the interior. Pointed-arch, stained glass windows are evenly spaced on the sides of the building between the buttresses.

Alterations to the building are minor and do not detract significantly from the original integrity of the building. A small, concrete block addition was built on the rear of the church (n.d.), but it is not visible from the front or public views. The original wood shingles on the roof were replaced by asphalt shingles a number of years ago. On the interior, carpet has been added in the center aisle and in the altar area, and an entry cubical has also been added (n.d.). In recent years, in order to protect the stained glass windows on the building, sheets of transparent, hard plastic have been fitted into the window openings on the outside of the stained glass.

St. Paul’s is an excellent example of a small Gothic Revival church building. Elements which distinguish the church as a Gothic Revival building are the steeply pitched gable roof, the buttresses, and the pointed arch stained glass window with tracery and colored glass. It is probably the best example of the Greek Revival style in both the city of Vernal and the Uintah Basin.

St. Paul’s Lodge is a two-story, brick Craftsman style house with a gable roof and a full-width, one-story front porch. Elements of the Craftsman style include the broad gable roof, the half timbering in the upper portion of the gable end, and the exposed rafters and purlins, and the exposed woodwork in the gables of the wall dormers and porch on the west side of the building. The four symmetrically spaced windows on the upper story of the façade have pointed relieving arches. There is a bay window on the west side of the building. The foundation is constructed of coursed sandstone. There is a one-story gabled section on the rear of the building, which, judging from its appearance and materials, was probably built at the same time as the main portion of the house.

Alterations that have been made on the exterior of the house are minor and do not significantly detract from its original appearance. The exterior brick walls have been painted (n.d.), and the openings on the front porch have been filled in with windows (n.d.). The interior of the house was altered somewhat when the building was converted into a hospital.

Houses designed in the Craftsman style in Utah are quite limited, based on the results of the partially completed state survey of historical and architectural sites. The Craftsman influence, however, was profound, especially in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Broad gable roofs, exposed rafters and half timbering are the most prevalent evidence of the Craftsman influence and occur on bungalows in most Utah towns. Even though St. Paul’s Lodge is not a premier example of the style in the state, it is significant as one of the few houses that were specifically designed in the Craftsman style.