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In October 1866, an initial meeting was held to discuss establishment of new Episcopal parishes, offshoots of St. John’s Lafayette Square, to serve the growing Foggy Bottom/West End area of the nation’s capital. By June 1867, the then segregated “white” parish was ready to elect its first Vestry, call its first Rector and hold its first Eucharist using the name “St. Paul’s Parish.” Our sister African American parish, St. Mary’s, was set up at the same time, as was our neighboring Roman Catholic parish, St. Stephen Martyr Our common history .
Our first church building was at 917 23rd Street, NW, near Washington Circle, in 1868. The West End was still fairly rural, as reflected in newspaper advertisements in 1866 seeking lost livestock at addresses described as “K and 21st St” or “26th St between I and K.” The fortunes of the area waxed and waned several times over the intervening decades.
As World War II neared its conclusion in late 1944, the federal government took the church property by eminent domain (with recompense) in order to construct a hospital for The George Washington University. Committed to remaining in the heart of the city, the parish purchased nearby property at the current K Street location. St. Paul’s engaged architect Philip H. Frohman to design a new church, which was completed in 1948. During a prolonged period of construction, the parish worshiped at St. Thomas’ Church near Dupont Circle.
St. Paul’s completed a significant construction initiative in 2009 that provides major accessible improvements to parish facilities to enable its mission and ministry, including a welcoming new main entrance and atrium gathering space; new music facilities (Gray House); and new parish offices and meeting space (Carwithen House). Other recent improvements have included renovations to Pillsbury House (the parish hall) to provide dedicated space for Christian education for children and youth, and remodeled meeting and nursery facilities.
Although St. Paul’s has always been a “neighborhood” parish, it draws visitors and newcomers from distances well beyond the parish bounds and the District of Columbia.
We have undertaken a review of the parish archives as part of our anniversary celebration. Watch this page throughout our anniversary year as we update it with more milestones and anecdotes from our 150-year history!