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St. Paul's Episcopal Church

CIRCA 1832

Historic Marker number 92 is located at 401 Duval Street between Eaton and Fleming Streets.This grand structure stands as a testament to the faith, productivity, and tenacity of Key West's diverse community. The building you see before you is the fourth church structure built by St. Paul's parishioners within an 80 year period between the 1800s and early 1900s.In 1831, a mere nine years after the founding of Key West in 1822, St. Paul's church was formed by an official act of the Key West City Council. A signed petition was sent to the Episcopalian Bishop of New York requesting a priest be sent to the island and the Parish of St. Paul's be established. The first church rector, Reverend Sanson K. Brunot, arrived December 23, 1832 and held the parish's first service was held Christmas Day in the County Courthouse in Jackson Square. Since there was no church building or rectory, Brunot became a permanent houseguest of William Whitehead, one of the four founding fathers of the City of Key West.Land for the church and rectory was given by Mary Fleming, the widow of John W. C. Fleming in 1832. Mr. Fleming was a founding father of Key West who had planned to set up a sea salt manufacturing business. He died in 1832 at the relatively young age of 51. Mrs. Fleming donated the land for the church with the stipulation that her husband's remains stay where they were. He is still buried on the grounds, but the actual site is unknown.The original church, made of coral rock was completed in 1839. The building was destroyed by the 1846 Havana Hurricane. The storm devastated the island sparing only 6 of 800 buildings. See Historic Marker #40 for additional storm information.The second church on this site was a wooden structure completed in 1848. As the church prospered, a rectory was added in 1857. Reverend Osgood E. Herrick was the first in a long line of rectors to call it home.The second church was destroyed in the Great Fire of Key West in 1886. See Historic Marker # 28. By some good fortune the Rectory survived undamaged. Rebuilding the church began immediately and a third church structure was completed in 1887. This building, constructed of wood, stood in the center of the block facing Eaton Street.In 1890, the church purchased its first bells. Once installed, the first chime of bells heard in the state of Florida rang out on Palm Sunday morning in 1891.In 1909 another disaster struck and the church was destroyed by a powerful hurricane. Luckily the parish hall survived and was used for services. The rectory also survived the storm. After three building losses, plans for a storm proof structure were approved in 1911.In an effort to protect the church from future tropical storms and fire, the structure was built primarily of solid concrete. Building methods and materials were heavily influenced by the construction of Henry Flagler's Over Seas Railroad.The new building was designed to face Duval Street sitting on the corner of Duval and Eaton Streets. The new location on the lot required moving the rectory next to the church facing Duval Street in 1914. The building you see today was completed in 1919 with the pipe organ arriving in 1931 for Christmas services.The church has an extensive collection of stained glass windows that were ordered and installed beginning in 1920. A unique design of the windows is that they were designed to pivot open to catch cool ocean breezes. The stained glass windows themselves are representative of 80 years of American stained glass artistry. Today the church stands as a beacon to the faith and fortitude of Key West's ancestors.