About

Our History

1831 - 1859

Efforts to establish a Protestant Episcopal church in Holmesburg were made primarily by the Reverend George Sheets, rector of All Saints Church, Lower Dublin, in 1831. Through these efforts, and a gift of money from Miss Hannah Lardner, the land, on which the chapel was subsequently erected, was on March 21, 1831, conveyed by William Bartolett in trust for All Saints Church. On that land, which is now a portion of the Emmanuel Church property, a Chapel of Ease was erected, and on January 30, 1832, consecrated. The consecration was made by the Right Reverend Henry Onderdunk, Assistant Bishop of The Diocese of Pennsylvania. The consecration services were conducted in the chapel. As long as it continued to be a chapel, the services were conducted by the Reverend Mr. Sheets and his successor the Reverend Mr. Frederick Beasley. Under the paternal care of All Saints parish, church work steadily progressed until, in January 1844, the band of faithful worshippers resolved to emerge from their dependency and establish an independent parish. With that object in view, a general meeting of the congregation was held on Monday, February 12, 1844, at which the following men were present; Alexander Brown, Edward J. Glenn, Benjamin Crispin, Richard Penn Lardner, Jacob Waterman, Dr. John H. lngham, Simmons H. Barrett, Dr. Newton May, Paul Crispin, George Fox, James Lever, -George Wagner, James Day, Casper W. Morris, Joshua B. Smith, James Graham, and Joseph Hall.


At that meeting it was resolved to form a parish, and a vestry was elected. On that same day the vestry met, and elected Alexander Brown as Rector’s Warden, and Edward J. Glen as Accounting Warden and Secretary. As All Saints Parish agreed to convey to the new parish the Emmanuel chapel property, as soon as it could legally do so, application was made to the legislature for an act of incorporation. The legislative machinery moved promptly, and an act incorporating:


"The Rector, Church Wardens, and Vestrymen of Emmanuel Church of Holmesburg, in the County of Philadelphia."


was passed and on April 9, 1844 approved by the governor. Emmanuel became a parish on that date so far as the civil power of the Commonwealth could create it, but it did not become so ecclesiastically until May 24, 1844, when the convention of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania accepted its charter, and accepted its lay deputies. On May 24, 1844 the vestry elected the Reverend William Henry Bournes as rector. Mr. Bournes accepted the call and on July 16, 1844, assumed the duties of the position.


The advent of Mr. Bournes marked a new era for the congregation; the labors and the patience necessary to the formation of the new parish were relieved by wise cou

George G. Field. A score of visiting clergyman were present, and, in addition to the consecration ceremonies, Holy Communion was celebrated and a large class confirmed. nsel and Christian guidance of an able and amiable rector. Reverend Bournes resigned in 1848 for reasons of ill health. While in charge, he was married to Miss Frances B. Chapman of Holmesburg.


During Mr. Bournes rectorship, services were not only held in the church, but also at the poorhouse, and at the Pennypack Print Works, at both places church schools were established. Two confirmation services were held by the Right Reverend Alonzo Potter, Bishop of The Diocese of Pennsylvania, one on December 10, 1845, and the other on December 10, 1847. All spiritual activities were kept up, while the congregation strove to meet requirements for raising revenues for church maintenance and a future goal of church enlargement.


The vestry on November 28, 1848 elected the Reverend George Godfrey Field as rector to succeed the Reverend Mr. Bournes. While he was rector at Holmesburg, a schoolhouse was built and the agitation for a new church building was kept up. That resulted, shortly after his retirement, in the erection of the present church edifice. A church school building, twenty feet by forty feet, was erected in 1849, first occupied on October 1 of that year (this building is the site of the present St Mary’s Chapel). On April 1, 1851 the bell was purchased and placed in the tower. In the middle of November 1850, a new organ was installed in the church. During the spring of 1851 a "lady of the parish" erected at her own expense, an addition to the church school building of 1849. A parish school was opened May 5, 1851 with ten scholars, which was increased to forty-eight by July 1851. Mr. Field resigned as rector of Emmanuel Church on April 12, 1857.


In the interval between the resignation of the Reverend Mr. Field and the election of his successor, the vestry took active measures for the erection of a new church building. Plans and specifications as made by Mr. Samuel Sloan, architect, were adopted by the vestry on June 3, 1857. Alfred Enoch and George C. Wagner were selected to construct the building, being the lowest bidders. The cornerstone was laid on September 21, 1857 with appropriate religious ceremonies by the Right Reverend Alonzo Potter, Bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania. On November 1, 1857 the vestry elected the Reverend John P. Lundy, D.D. Upon assuming his duties as rector in Holmesburg, he found the construction of the new church building under way. The building was completed at a cost of $10,377.72, and opened for services on Sunday, July 4, 1858 at which Dr. Lundy preached a congratulatory and patriotic sermon. On July 7, 1858 the sacrament of baptism was administered for the first time in the new edifice, the person to receive it being Kenneth Mackensie Blakiston, infant son of Presley and Sarah Blakiston. The first marriage solemnized in the new church was that of Elias Chase and Malvina Susan Jones on July 15, 1858.


The consecration of the church took place on December 16, 1858, the Right Reverend Samuel Bowmen, Assistant Bishop of the Diocese officiating, assisted by the Reverend J. P. Lundy and


Upon completion of the church, the vestry took measures for the erection of a rectory. On February 16, 1859, the vestry accepted the generous gift from Mr. Presley Blakiston, consisting of a lot of ground 125 feet fronted on Maple Lane (now Blakiston Street) by 250 feet in depth, whereon to erect the rectory. (Unfortunately, this building no longer exists.) Plans were adopted March 16 1859, and a committee elected to carry them out.

1860 - 1890

On February 27, 1861, the committee reported that the rectory had been completed at a cost of $5,097.83 which included the cost of a stable, porch, well, roads, cistern, fences, etc.


During Dr. Lundy’s term as rector, the Thornley addition to the graveyard was purchased at a cost of $2,536.50, including all expenses; of that amount, Miss Catherine Moore subscribed $2,000.00. The means to erect the wall extension came principally from the same source, while the railing surmounting the wall and the iron gates. were the gift of Mrs. Hugh Davids. Dr. Lundy’s resignation, which was caused by his wife’s ill health, was reluctantly accepted by the vestry on November 23, 1863.


A living legacy from Dr. Lundy’s rectorship is the Cedar of Lebanon tree that still prospers between the church and Emmanuel House. It was brought as a seedling from the Holy Land by Dr. Lundy in 1860.


The Reverend D. Caldwell Millett, D.D. was elected rector of the parish on July 21, 1864, and assumed charge in September of that year. For thirty years he conducted the affairs of Emmanuel parish with ability, faithfulness, and zeal, but at the close of that period, recognizing the weight of years and increasing infirmities, he resigned, the change effective October 1, 1894. On October 23, 1894 the vestry conferred upon him the title of Rector Emeritus. He died in Holmesburg on February 28, 1900.


During his rectorship at Holmesburg he held a third service at Tacony. The first services were held on December 8, 1867, and continued in the old railroad station during the summer of 1868. This parish later became Holy Innocents. Thirty years of ministerial service in one parish, with ever increasing growth and prosperity indicates a rare devotion to the cause which the church represents. Let it be sufficient to note that during the period of Dr. Millett’s supervision, the principal things that were accomplished were the enlargement of the cemetery and the building of a wall around it; the reorganization of the Parish School Association; the erection of the parish house (now the chapel); and a new rectory.


The wall was ordered May 2, 1872, and was completed April 6, 1874. The cemetery in its territorial limits of 1914 were consecrated on June 15, 1883.


The Parish School Association was formed in January 1872 for the purpose of re-organizing the committee on superintendence of the parish school. The association set about to raise funds, holding a bazaar, from which nearly one thousand dollars was raised. Encouraged by that success, the ladies of the association directed their energies to raising sufficient funds to erect a school and parish bilding. As the funds increased they invested them for the use of that purpose, but their investments were destined to be used in supporting a parish day school, and not in the erection of the building, for Miss Eliza J. Brown offered to erect a parish building for church purposes, at her own expense. In the spriung of 1879 building operations were started, and on June 11, 1879, the cornerstone was laid with appropriate ceremonies. On November 29, 1879 the building, having been completed, was opened with prayer, after which a presentation of the building and keys were made to the church corporation. They were received by the Rector in the name of and for the corporation. Placed in the cornerstone were;


  • The Holy Bible
  • Book of Common Prayer
  • Frankford Gazette
  • Philadelphia Inquirer
  • Church Almanac
  • Public Ledger
  • Ledger Almanac
  • Proof coins from the U.S. Mint
  • Episcopal Register
  • and a memorial to Mrs. Elizabeth D. Fisher and Mary D. Brown, signed by the members of the Parish School Association.


Almost from the time of the completion of the rectory on Maple Lane (Blakiston Street), the agitation for its removal to closer proximity to the church began, and only ceased when the former rectory on the corner of Frankford Avenue and Decatur Street was assured. By the power and under the discretionary authority in him as executor and trustee by Mr. Joseph E. Temple’s will, Mr. Theodore M. Allen secured from the Orphan’s Court of Philadelphia, on November 3, 1887, a decree setting aside "$11,000.00 in trust to be invested in a lot and a memorial to be called the Joseph E. Temple Memorial". These facts were communicated to the vestry in January of 1888. The vestry accepted, and the grounds purchased, the plans of the architects approved, and on March _ 20, 1889 building began and continued until the building was completed and ready for occupancy.


Reverend Millett moved into it on Monday, December 16, 1889. Its cost was $15,265.81. The old rectory was rented until June 11, 1892 when it was sold for $5,000.00, the proceeds used to cancel the obligations incurred by obligations to the Memorial Rectory Fund, and toward payment for church repairs. The benediction was pronounced on October 7, 1890.


A new organ was presented to the church in 1892 by the Ladies Aid.


The 50th Anniversary of the incorporation of the church was observed on April 8th and 9th


1894. It was celebrated with prayer, addresses of visiting clergymen, an afternoon reception even ing prayer, and a reading of the first fifty years of church history by Mr. William Bender Wilson a member of the vestry, having been formally asked to do this.


On September 27, 1894, a reception was held in the parish house to honor the thirtieth anniversary of Dr. Millett’s advent to the parish as rector. The Reverend Arnold Harris Hord was elected rector on October 23, 1894. On Sunday, December 16, 1894, Mr. Hord was formally instituted by the Reverend Dr. D. C. Millett, the Reverend Dr. Edward J. Bartlett, Dean of the Philadelphia Divinity School, and the Reverend Horace A. Walton, first assistant minister at St. James Church, Philadelphia. Mr. Henry B. Weed, Accounting Church Warden, accompanied by Mr. Frank Clay, a member of the vestry, stood in the chancel with the clergy, and formally acknowledged the new rector by presenting him with the keys of the church. This was the first time the office of institution was performed in the church.


The period of Mr. Hord’s administration of the parish was one of progressive activity and many improvements in church facilities were made during it.


In the summer of 1895, Mrs. John R. Wucherer, through Miss Eliza J. Brown, presented the parish library with 280 bound volumes of standard works; the rectory was connected with the sewage system; two handsome reflectors (lamps) placed over the pulpit and lectern were presented by the Ladies Aid Society and Miss Louise Stokes; and the bequests to the parish under the will of Mrs. Frances B. Bournes became availalbe.


Mrs. Bournes, in the exercise of discretionary powers under the will of Miss Catherine M. Moore, bequeathed a certain portion of the income from the trust for the purchase of books for the parish library. She also made liberal provision from the trust for the purchase of an organ, and the placing of a stained glass window in the church.


The vestry decided that the stained glass window should be a memorial to the Reverend William H. Bournes and his wife. The window, which has for its central panel the figure of Our Savior, was placed in the rear of the chancel, overlooking the altar and facing the nave. (It is now on the right front as you enter the church). It was placed on November 16, 1895, and on the following day the old window was presented to St. George’s Mission in Port Richmond.


In 1896 there was presented to the church, a brass chancel rail, by Miss Sarah Painter and her church School class of young men; a brass reading desk by the church school and two brass standard lights, one on each side of the altar. The old chancel rail was presented to Holy Innocents Church, Tacony.


In 1897 a new communion service was presented by the Altar Guild, and a brass altar desk by Miss Louise Kreis.


In 1898 Mrs. Presley Blakiston presented a brass pulpit as a memorial to her husband, which was dedicated on September 22, 1898, and Miss Eliza J. Brown presented a bookcase for the parish library.


In 1899, under the auspices of the Altar Guild, an extensive addition to the chancel was made, and robing rooms erected. These improvements were completed for service by January 7, 1900, and formally presented to the corporation without expense to it on April 11, 1900. The cost of the improvements, with incidental repairs including a new furnace, was $5,706.03 of which amount Miss Eliza J. Brown contributed $3,229.99, the balance of which was raised by the Guild. Mr. Hord resigned as rector at Holmesburg on January 1, 1901.

1900 - 1960

During 1901, St. Martha’s Guild presented a Ewer and shelf for use at the font as a testimonial to Reverend Arnold Harris Hord, and in 1902 presented as an Easter offering, a silver baptismal shell. of the parish on March 1, 1901.


On December 7, 1902 the Right Reverend Leighton Coleman, S.J.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Delaware, consecrated an altar of white sculptural marble, provided by the vestry and congregation, as an affectionate memorial to the late Reverend D. C. Millett, D.D. The wooden altar which it

displaced was presented to St. George’s Mission, in Port Richmond, Philadelphia.


In 1904 the burial grounds were improved and surveyed; stones to establish the lines of the lots were set, old sheds torn down, new sheds put up, part of the boundary wall rebuilt, privet hedge planted and grounds generally put in good condition at a cost of $778.00.


In 1905 a metal cover for the font was presented as a memorial to Miss Lizzie C. Glenn.


In 1906 the church was repainted and thoroughly renovated.


During February 1906, a new organ was installed in the church. It was put in use at the services on the first Sunday in Lent, March 4, 1906. The price of the organ and the cost of installation was $3,386.95, paid for out of the funds provided for in Mrs. Frances B. Bournes will and from the sale of the old organ.


The old organ was sold for $600.00 to St. Lukes Church, Orlando, the cathedral church of the Diocese of Southern Florida.


The Reverend Mr. Tufft resigned October 18, 1910.


The Reverend Sydney Goodman was elected the seventh rector of the parish on March 24, 1911 and took charge of its administration on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1911. He spent nearly twenty years with us, and is remembered for his manner of conducting the church services, always in full accord with their solemn and spiritual beauty. Mr. Goodman is also remembered for his missionary work, and his kindly visitations of the sick.


It is recorded in the vestry minutes that "during Mr. Goodman’s long service, Holmesburg changed from a small, old fashioned country village, into a modern suburban district of Philadelphia, and that through his earnest efforts the congregation has increased considerably."


During his incumbency the church property was greatly improved, and nearly the whole cost thereof was raised by contributions obtained through his efforts. Among these improvements we list;


  • Electric lighting of the church, installed in 1913.
  • New carpet for the whole floor of the church, and an altar rug.
  • Installation of a stained glass window in 1915, in memory of Miss Jennie Pattison.
  • Acquisition of the lot at the corner of Frankford Avenue and Stanwood Street and subsequent erection of Garret Hall (now known as Emmanuel House).
  • Installation of a central heating plant for hall and church.
  • The Weed Memorial cross atop the steeple.
  • The beautiful chancel window - The Brown Memorial.


In August 1916 a proposal was adopted to replace the chancel window with new "art glass" window, to be called the Brown Memorial. The window is made of imported art glass, designed and built by the Gorham Company of New York City. The subject is the adoration of the new born Jesus, and its treatment is wonderfully complete. A critic of the day wrote of it "The mistake so often made, of over elaboration, has been carefully avoided. Very few accessories are admitted, and then only such as are absolutely necessary to adequately express the subject." The window was dedicated on Trinity Sunday, June 4, 1917.


On May 28, 1915, Mr. Tage Teisen, a lay reader of our church, was ordained deacon, becoming the first member of our parish to enter the holy orders.


In 1916 the General Endowment Fund of the church was started through Mr. Goodman’s work.


It is interesting to note that in the vestry minutes of October 26, 1918, the state and city authorities had ordered that all churches, church schools, day schools and all other places of public assembly be closed until further orders, in consequence of the prevailing Spanish Influenza epidemic.


In 1919, a week long celebration was held to honor the incorporation of the church. On October 26, 1919, at the morning service, The Reverend Waldemar Jansen, rector of Trinity Church Oxford, preached the anniversary sermon.


The congregation then proceeded to the parish house to witness the unveiling of a tablet placed on the wall as a memorial to the late Eliza J. Brown, donor of the building, given by the Parish School Guild.


The Church of the Resurrection in Mayfair, owes its early development to the earnest efforts of Mr. Goodman.



On March 1, 19

31, Mr. Goodman resigned to take charge at the Church of Saint John the Baptist in Germantown.


During 1931, the election of a rector again occupied the vestry, and among the names presented we find that of Henry E. Kaufmann, who was later to become the ninth rector of the church.


The eighth rector, the Reverend I. E. Brooks,then of Grace Church Hulmeville, was elected on June 18, 1931, and took charge August 1 of that same year.


With his selection, the church assumed the responsibility for the full amount of the rector’s salary, whereas for some years prior we had received aid in this direction from the Sustentation Fund.


In October of 1931, Mrs. Mary M. Garrett, who had generously donated to our church during the past several years, requested that her name be removed from Garrett Hall. That name had been used since the hall was opened, and appropriately too, as it was she who purchased the ground on which it was built, and she who contributed nearly all of the money for its erection. However, in compliance with her wish, her name was removed from the hall, and henceforth it became known as "Emmanuel House."


Mr. Brooks, mainly through his own handicraft, and with the artistic help of Mr. Lewis Carr, converted the central wing of the Parish house into a chapel. Many parishioners still recall that much of the chapel’s lovely interior was fashioned from mahogany wood of old and discarded dining room and bedroom furniture, donated by the parishioners. The chapel was named and consecrated "Saint Mary’s Chapel" by Bishop Tait in 1934.


During Mr. Brooks’ rectorship, the church bazaar and dinner, as we know it today, was started in 1931.


In 1938 the basement robing room for the choir was built. The Junior Choir was organized during Mr. Brooks’ rectorship.


Mr. Brooks resigned on Easter Day, March 24, 1940, after nearly nine years as rector.


Mr. Brooks’ departure was followed by our ninth rector, Dr. Henry E. Kaufmann. Dr. Kaufmann was elected rector on June 20, 1940 and assumed charge on September 1, 1940. He spent twenty-seven years with us, and many changes in Emmanuel were accomplished during this time.


Much in the way of upkeep to the church was done, and also the physical property had been improved and several items of note were accomplished. We list among these;


  • A new stone wall and concrete pavement and entrance steps.
  • Rebuilding of the church organ.
  • Painting of the church interior.
  • Enlargement of the church burial ground.
  • Renovation of the Sexton’s house and workshop.
  • Painting interior walls in the Church school rooms in the chapel.
  • Installation of new electric lighting exterior f fixtures.
  • Acquisition of the parking lot on Stanwood Street.
  • The sandblasting of the church in 1960, for the first time in its 100 years of existence.


The sacristy was started in 1952, utilizing stone from the Broad Street Station, which was being demolished that year. Construction continued through 1952, and in May of 1953 the sacristy was dedicated by the rector as a memorial to Louisa K. Schafer.


In 1956 extensive renovation of the chapel was started to add to the capacity of the church school classrooms. Funds for this important addition were realized by contributions of the congregation over a two year period.


Many celebrations and anniversaries were also held during Dr. Kaufmann’s rectorship. On April 23, 1944 a service was held, marking the 100th anniversary of the independence of the parish. Concluding a week of celebration, a dinner was held with Bishop Oliver J. Hart as speaker.


Dr. Kaufmann celebrated his twenty-fifth anniversary in the ministry and his fifteenth year at Emmanuel in April, 1956 with a reception in Emmanuel House, which was attended by the Bishop. Mr. Kaufmann was presented with his portrait in oils by the congregation.


In 1958 the 100th anniversary was celebrated including a display of photographs, and a booklet was given to parishioners with a brief history of Emmanuel.


Mrs. Alice Farrow was hired as organist and choir director in 1956, and continued doing fine work in that capacity until 1980.


In 1959 a decision was reached by the vestry to purchase a new organ from the Mudler-Hunter Company at a cost of $16,000.00. Some pipes from the previous organ were used. This organ continues to provide us with beautiful music today. The organ was dedicated at the morning worship service on October 24, 1960, and a recital was given on October 30 with Wesley A. Day as recitalist.


Many lovely memorial gifts were given Emmanuel during this time, to both the Church and Saint Mary’s Chapel. The remaining windows of the church not previously given were donated. These are;


  • The French and World War Two memorial window.
  • The Frost window.
  • The Birkmann window.
  • The Twelves window.
  • The Pickel window in the sacristy.
  • The Lynam and Koester windows in the chancel


Further memorials and gifts enriched the church to make our place of worship a more beautiful and fitting house of God. They are;


  • A new oriental Altar rug.
  • Brass gates at the communion rail.
  • New offering basins.
  • An eternal light over the baptismal font
  • New Altar hangings.


These are but a few of the lovely and generous gifts bestowed on Emmanuel Church.


Neither has the chapel been exempt; in 1960 the vestry gave permission for memorial windows to be placed in that building. Since then every window in the chapel, and the nursery and kindergarten wings are filled with lovely windows.


In September of 1967, Dr. Kaufmann retired and moved to Point Pleasant, Pa.