St. Anne's withstands tests of time

May 13, 2007|By Cassandra A. Fortin | Cassandra A. Fortin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

As visitors near Duke of Gloucester Street in Annapolis, they can't help but notice the steeple of St. Anne's Episcopal Church.

Jutting high above the surrounding buildings, the steeple houses the town clock. But what lies below the clock records time dating back more than 300 years.

St. Anne's was one of 30 parishes established in 1692 under the auspices of the Church of England.

Test of time

Unlike the main structure, the parish has sustained the test of time. With about 1,500 members, St. Anne's is an important part of the early history of Annapolis.

The first church building was built between 1696 to 1704. Construction was delayed on the structure because of Queen Anne's War and a shortage of materials and competent bricklayers, according to a short history of the church written by the Rev. Canon A. Pierce Middleton.

The building - funded in part by the state legislature because the denomination was the established church in Maryland then - served as the Chapel Royal until 1715, Middleton wrote.

The state funds were contributed to the cost of building the first St. Anne's Church in return for official pews being set aside for use of the governor and legislators, Middleton wrote.

"And everybody who was anybody belonged to the church," said Archibald Weems McFadden, 81, a church archivist and lifetime parish member.

During this time, the church received a silver Communion set made in 1696 from King William III, and a bell from Queen Anne.

Church attendance grew at such a rapid rate that in 1775, the building was torn down to make room for a larger structure, McFadden said.

Designed by Joseph Horatio Anderson - the architect who designed the State House - the building was delayed because of the Revolution and wasn't completed until 1792, Middleton wrote.

"During the war years, parishioners of St. Anne's worshiped in King William's School on State Circle, and when that proved inadequate, in the new theater that had been built on West Street just before the war," Middleton wrote.

The structure was used until 1858, when on St. Valentine's Day, a fire gutted the church and the bell was destroyed, McFadden said.

However, the silver, a Bible dating to 1707 and parish records dating from 1705 were saved.

The third structure, completed in 1859, was built in the Romanesque Revival style. The steeple was built in 1866, and the Town Clock has been housed in it ever since, McFadden said.

Stained glass

Visitors who venture beyond the gate discover Tiffany stained-glass windows, 600 handmade kneelers, a brass eagle and stories about a congregation that has included Charles Carroll the Barrister and William Paca.

On a recent afternoon, McFadden gave a guided tour of the quaint church.

As you enter the main door, there are several plaques. One is in memory of Declaration of Independence signers Samuel Chase, Paca, Thomas Stone, all churchmen, and Charles Carroll of Carrollton, who was Roman Catholic, said McFadden.

Another plaque is dedicated to Francis Scott Key, who wrote the national anthem.

On the other side, there are drawings that depict the three church buildings. Inside the nave are stained-glass windows on the walls leading to the altar, including two Tiffany windows.

One window depicts St. Anne instructing her daughter, the Virgin Mary, said McFadden.

"The window was made by Tiffany Studios and exhibited at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 before being put in the church," said McFadden, who was a doctor in the Army.

The other window, erected in 1914, shows the angel of the resurrection.

Farther down the aisle is a brass eagle that sits atop a railing in the front of the church.

The eagle was given in memory of Capt. James Waddell, who was commander of the Confederate raider Shenandoah, McFadden said.

Behind the altar is a walnut reredos, or decorative screen, carved by William Kirchmayer in 1920, which depicts the risen Christ offering the Book of Life to mankind.

Also, the church owns about 600 handmade cross-stitched kneelers, said McFadden's daughter, Nancy Weems McFadden, 52, of Annapolis.

The kneelers were created to celebrate the church's 300th anniversary, she said. The project was headed by Shirley McFadden, Nancy's mother, after the project director, retired Rear Adm. Robert Geiger, moved from the area.

A needlework historian and collector, Shirley McFadden led the group that created more than 400 original designs as well as five designs made into kits. People of all ages and occupations participated in the project, Nancy McFadden said.

A king's gift

"All sorts of things inspired the [creation of the] kneelers," Nancy said. "Maryland history, family crests, the Bible and even the floor of the altar."

By the front door is a safe that contains some of the church artifacts. The most prized is the silver Communion set given by King William III, which is still used at weekly services, McFadden said, as he picked up a plate to show the king's coat of arms.

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