You are here

St. Paul's Episcopal Church

-A A +A
c. 1736–1739. 1759, church walls begun. 1776, burned. 1785–1786, new roof. 1832, renovation, Levi Swain. 1865–1866, renovation. 1877, sacristy addition. c. 1877, slate roof and wooden cupola. 1901, tower addition. 1912–1913, restoration, Ferguson, Calrow and Taylor. 1998–1999, new roof. 1907–1909, parish house, Ferguson and Calrow. 201 St. Paul's Blvd.
  • St. Paul's Episcopal Church (Virginia Division of Historic Resources)
  • St. Paul's Episcopal Church (Richard Guy Wilson)
  • St. Paul's Episcopal Church (Richard Guy Wilson)

St. Paul's is the only major structure to have survived the burning of the city at the beginning of the American Revolution. In addition to providing an important link to a distant past, the church and its churchyard form one of the few attractive green spaces left in all of downtown. St. Paul's was originally part of the Elizabeth River parish formed before 1641, and several structures predate the present building. In a somewhat unusual and flamboyant gesture, the date 1739 and the initials SB are crudely outlined in glazed headers flanking the entrance to the right transept. The initials may be those of Samuel Boush, mayorelect of the then recently incorporated borough of Norfolk, or his son Samuel Boush, the owner of a nearby brickyard and possibly the gentleman-amateur in charge of the church's design. Cruciform in shape with an east-facing sanctuary, the church is essentially a provincial version of Williamsburg's Bruton Parish Church (1711–1715; see entry under Williamsburg in the Hampton Roads section). The brick walls are laid in Flemish bond with round-arched windows lining the nave and transepts and wheel windows above the three principal entrances. Construction began on the brick walls surrounding the churchyard in 1759. When the city was burned by retreating patriots on New Year's Day, 1776, only the walls of the church and the churchyard were left standing. Rebuilt with funds from a public lottery in 1785, the church suffered from religious friction that led to the periodic abandonment and reoccupation of the building by competing Protestant sects. Finally, in 1832, it became St. Paul's Episcopal Church. Further renovations were made to the building following its occupation by Union troops during the Civil War, and a sacristy was added to the northeast corner in 1877. About the same time, a polychrome slate roof (now removed) was installed, with a wooden cupola at the crossing. A crenellated tower was constructed to the west of the church in 1901, dramatically altering its exterior proportions. The 1907 Jamestown Ter-Centennial Exposition revived interest in the historic building, and its interior was heavily restored to its presumed colonial appearance in 1912–1913. Of the interior furnishings, only the reredos behind the altar dates from the eighteenth century; it was once located in St. John's Church, King William County. The numerous stained glass windows include one by Tiffany Studios, midway along the right side of the nave, and, directly opposite on the left side of the nave, a Tiffany-style window by the Hermann Company. The churchyard contains headstone carvings from the seventeenth through the nineteenth century.

Writing Credits

Richard Guy Wilson et al.


What's Nearby


Richard Guy Wilson et al., "St. Paul's Episcopal Church", [Norfolk, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Virginia: Tidewater and Piedmont, Richard Guy Wilson and contributors. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, 415-416.

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.

, ,