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St. Clement's Episcopal Church

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1939, Ray Morris. 1515 Wilder Ave.
  • (Photograph by Kaoru Lovett)
  • (Photograph by Kaoru Lovett)
  • (Photograph by Kaoru Lovett)

Awkward looking at first glance, St. Clement's conceals a charming interior. A late rendition of Carpenter Gothic with tropical overtones, this simple church replaced an earlier Arts and Crafts building. The nave and side aisles are under separate gabled roofs, making for an additive exterior appearance. Within, the nave has a high, vaulted, and paneled ceiling and bracketed columns. The warm wood of the nave is enhanced and illuminated by the clerestory shed dormers and sliding doors lining the side walls. The predominantly blue stained glass windows, produced by the Charles J. Connick Studio in Boston, provide a focal point. A columbarium is located under the structure and is accessed from the rear.

The modesty of St. Clement's is, in part, a reflection of its history. During the 1890s, the congregation at St. Andrew's Cathedral (OA44) became factionalized over the high church tenets of Bishop Alfred Willis, head of the Church of England in Hawaii. In 1897, Willis departed Hawaii for a nine-month journey to England to attend the Lambeth Conference. During the bishop's absence, Canon John Us-borne established St. Clement's in Makiki, as a mission of St. Andrew's. Upon his return, Willis refused to recognize the new mission. As such, St. Clement's, with its dissident faction, became an independent chapel, which they called The Episcopal Church at Large. It remained so until 1902, when the Episcopal Church of America took charge of the Hawaii diocese of the Church of England, and Bishop Willis was succeeded by Bishop Henry Bond Restarick. The finely sculpted baptismal font was the work of Gordon Usborne, Canon Usborne's son.

Ray Morris (1892–1988) was born in New Jersey and came to Hawaii in 1926, after having worked in a planing mill in San Francisco, where he had met Frederick E. Lowrey, president of the building supply company Lewers and Cooke. Upon arrival in Honolulu, Morris worked briefly in the office of Dickey and Wood. He then convinced Lowrey to establish an architectural department at Lewers and Cooke, arguing Honolulu needed better-designed, modestly priced housing. Until this time, such dwellings often followed the vernacular lines of single-wall, tongue-and-groove, plantation workers' housing. To encourage prospective homeowners to buy their materials from Lewers and Cooke, the company offered to assist their customers in obtaining financing and provided them with free, custom house plans. To maintain peace with the local architectural profession, the company only offered their design services for small residential projects, which normally would not utilize an architect. Company guidelines restricted in-house design activities to projects priced under $5,000 and, later, as costs escalated, to houses of less than two thousand square feet. Morris headed the architecture department from 1926 through 1936, designing thousands of modest cottages, no two employing the same plan. In 1936 he opened his own office. The preponderance of his work was residential, many of which were modestly priced homes, and also included Hawaii's first public housing project on Kalakaua Avenue (1940; demolished).

Writing Credits

Don J. Hibbard


What's Nearby


Don J. Hibbard, "St. Clement's Episcopal Church", [Honolulu, Hawaii], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Hawaii

Buildings of Hawaii, Don J. Hibbard. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011, 146-147.

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