This year marks the 140th anniversary of Saint Joseph’s Church, Fayetteville’s second oldest Episcopal congregation. Its history begins in 1873, when the Rev. Joseph Caldwell Huske, rector of Saint John’s Episcopal Church, aided the African-American members of his parish, approximately one-fourth of the total membership, in establishing their own church. He also served as the first rector of the newly organized church.
Saint Joseph’s present location at the corner of Ramsey and Moore streets is the third site where the congregation worshipped. With financial support from Eva Cochran, the present church was built in 1896, and consecrated the following year by the Right Reverend Augustine Watson, 1st Bishop of the Diocese of East Carolina. Saint Joseph’s comprises a closely grouped set of buildings with church, parish hall and rectory connected by wooden arcades and complementing each other in form, scale and detail, and are arranged and landscaped to give the character of a small country village. The church buildings are finished in a bold and organic green-shingle with a unique architectural blend of Queen Anne, Gothic and Spanish styles.
The interior of the church is also beautifully executed and is well preserved with beaded boarding above a high Gothic paneled wainscot reaching to the window sills and the ceiling is paneled in the same material as the upper walls, with a roof supported on trussed rafters. Original wood pews, pulpit and other furnishings add to the rich and warm interior appearance. Featured in the deeply projecting semi-octagonal chancel are five exquisite Resurrection windows produced by Tiffany of New York and an 1857 manual pipe organ built by Henry Erben. The west wall of the church is highlighted by a large three-part stained glass window set in a diamond pattern of amber glass and accented with fleur-de-lis symbols. Samuel Lloyd, a Vestry member, said that, “Saint Joseph’s is such a beautiful and peaceful church that is filled with a quiet spirit.”
Over the years the Fayetteville Transportation and Local History Museum has had the privilege of conducting many tours of Saint Joseph’s and participants have always been amazed at the beauty and splendor of this rare architectural treasure. Saint Joseph’s is not only known for its rich history, or as an architectural gem, but also for its public service. In its long history, the church provided an early school for children, served as a site for the United Service Organization (U.S.O.) and was one of the first recreation centers established under the city’s newly formed Parks and Recreation Department in 1941. Also, the church has taken an active part in social programs ranging from the Homeless Coalition to a Breakfast Ministry which provides a nourishing breakfast to the needy.
On Saturday, Nov. 2, Saint Joseph’s in partnership with the Fayetteville Transportation & Local History Museum, will celebrate a milestone of 140 years of service to the Fayetteville community. Jan Mumford who is responsible for decorating the church for the upcoming celebration indicated that “it was all a labor of love.” Carol Graham, who is in charge of catering the event said, “This church welcomed me upon my marriage to a life-long member, Gene Graham. I love this church.” The anniversary celebration will begin at 9 a.m. with a bus tour of historic sites related to church history, followed by a program in the Parish Hall on the History of Saint Joseph’s Episcopal Church. After lunch, the anniversary program will continue with opening prayer by the Reverend Teddra Smith, rector, and opening remarks by Mr. Donald LaHuffman, Senior Warden. Highlights of the program include a proclamation from the Mayor’s Office, a Historical Perspective by Dr. Bertha Miller, Professor of History, Fayetteville State University, remarks and special presentation by the Reverend Robert Alves of St. John’s Episcopal Church and music offered by Fayetteville Senior Ensemble and the Saint Joseph’s Choir. Donald LaHuffman, Senior Warden and a member of Saint Joseph’s from birth said; “Truly God blessed us with this church, and this celebration is to give God the glory.”
Photo: St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church celebrates 140 years on Nov. 2.