Grace Church Parish History

Around 1830, when Hopkinsville was virtually a frontier outpost and the Bishop’s See was in Lexington, the Episcopal Church in Hopkinsville was formed. In the early summer of 1831, when Bishop Meade visited Hopkinsville, it was the farthest west that any Episcopal bishop had ever made an official visit. Bishop Benjamin Bosworth Smith, first bishop of the Diocese of Kentucky, was an organizer of Grace Church, and George P. Giddinge its first rector. The population of Hopkinsville at the time was approximately 1,500.

Samuel Hopkins, for whom the city was named, and William Christian, for whom the county was named, were both Episcopalians. Where the Church held its services from 1831 until around 1850 is somewhat of an enigma. Other church buildings and school buildings that were available have been put forward as the most probable sites. Around 1850 the Church built its first building in the block north of the present Grace Church. The first Parish House—a brick building--still exists at the northwest corner of 5th Street and Liberty.

A photo in The Story of Grace Church 1831-1984, compiled by Harvey O. White and available in the church office, is captioned “first building erected in 1846.” However, if this indeed was the first building, it was much altered from the original—since the style of the building depicted is twenty to thirty years later in time. As for the exact location of the church, it faced Virginia Street but was set far back from the street on a raised piece of ground where one can now see a concrete slab. (Records show that on the tenth of October 1875, Jefferson Davis worshiped at Grace.)

In 1883 funds were raised for construction of the present Grace Church building. It was built in a retardataire English Gothic Revival style and features a fine hammer-beam ceiling. Grace Church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. John C. Latham, Jr., Hopkinsville’s greatest philanthropist to date, furnished a considerable portion of the money for the project. The stained glass window over the altar is in memory of his mother, Virginia Glass Latham, and another window celebrates his own life. Latham also bought the Estey organ for Grace Church and left the church $50,000 in his will, a considerable sum in 1909.

Nat Gaither, father of Dr. Gant Gaither, started a Sunday School for Black children in the 1880’s, and by 1896 the need was apparent for a church building for a Black congregation. A building in the Neo-Federal style was constructed at the corner of 2nd Street and Campbell to house the Good Shepherd Church--which is still in use today as Aaron McNeil House.

In 1906 the Gaither Parish House was added to the main building in a style sympathetic to the original structure. This addition was a gift of Emma Carter Glass in memory of her daughter Emma Glass Gaither.

Fast forwarding seventy years, in 1976, during the tenure of the Rev. J. Roland Johnston, a Development Committee was appointed, with the Hon. Edward H. Johnstone as chairman, to study the future needs of the parish. During the period of this committee’s work, a small corner lot directly in front of the church was purchased to provide some off-street parking.

Under a new rector, following Fr. Johnston’s death, a second Development Committee was appointed to build upon this earlier work. The parish vestry made the decision to seek to purchase all adjoining property on the block and immediately across 6th Street for expansion. It committed itself not to flee a deteriorating central section of the city but to use its resources to transform this section of Hopkinsville into a place of beauty of which the entire community could be proud.

Gradually during the period of 1978-84 buildings and land were acquired. A large unsightly automobile body shop directly in front of the parish house was acquired and razed to provide a much larger parking lot adjoining the corner lot already owned. Soon a small plumbing shop on 5th Street and a small pool room on 6th Street were purchased. Then a major purchase of several buildings on 6th and Virginia Streets and a VFW Club building on 5th Street made Grace Church the owner of all the property on its block—with the exception of one building on the corner of Virginia and 5th Streets. All the old buildings which were purchased were demolished. The expansion represented purchases in excess of $200,000 by the parish. These purchases were made possible by an item in the annual parish budget and one significant bequest from Sarah Callard Bryant.

Plans were also proceeding during this period for a new parish hall to meet the needs of a growing congregation and the desire to serve the community. Architect Tom M. Paine of Hopkinsville was commissioned to design a parish hall in a style to complement the existing church and Gaither addition. Upon approval of his plans, Rader Construction Company was employed to erect the new building. The Ground Breaking Ceremony was held on Sunday, March 4, 1984. The old Abbitt Hall (originally a rectory and then a classroom building) was torn down, and the new building was constructed in 1984-85 under the careful supervision of the architect and the Building Committee chairman, Charles D. Wade. The first parish gathering in the almost complete building was the Every Member Canvass dinner on November 14, 1984. The removal of Abbitt Hall also provided space for the creation of a memorial garden which includes a columbarium for the interment of ashes.

Funding for the construction of the new building, which was named All Saints Hall by the vestry, upon a suggestion from the rector, was provided through advance gifts, an item in the annual parish budget, and loans from the Diocese of Kentucky Revolving Fund and Planters Bank and Trust Company. Approximately one-half the cost of the building was raised in special pledges and gifts from members and friends of the parish within a span of one month by an Advance Gifts Committee chaired by Dr. W. Faxon Payne.

All Saints Hall, built at a cost of approximately $375,000, contains a large Great Room which is suitable for gatherings of the entire parish and other large groups for social occasions and other activities. There is a large double classroom called the Canterbury Room and three children’s classrooms used for the weekday kindergarten and pre-school. In addition, there is sufficient space above the first floor classrooms to double the useable space in time of future need.

All Saints Hall is joined to the Gaither addition by an attractive cloister. At its regular meeting on October 9, 1984, the parish vestry designated this cloister to the honor the priest—Ray Lord--during whose ministry the building program was undertaken and completed.

A special feature of All Saints Hall is the windows by local artist Jim Calhoun and constructed of hand-blown glass. The windows contain medallions of saints’ symbols and other ecclesiastical symbols of special meaning to the parish. A series of heraldic banners with symbols of additional saints hang from the walls of the Great Room. These banners were made by St. Elizabeth’s Guild and were a thank offering of the Episcopal Church Women, who also provided generous furnishings for All Saints.

Completion of All Saints Hall made possible the renovation of the Gaither addition for more effective use. The first floor now contains a large sacristy, a parlor for small meetings and classes, and a small chapel made possible by additional memorial gifts and dedicated to “Our Lady.” The church office and rector’s office are located on the second floor, and the third floor contains the choir room and space dedicated to our Catechesis of the Good Shepherd—a Montessori-based Christian Education program for children.

In 2009, a major fund-raising effort resulted in the undertaking of much needed church repairs, the enclosing of the cloister space with glass and the construction of a new nursery. Now all of the church complex is connected and enclosed under one roof.

During this same period, our labyrinth was also completed, which is an exact replica of the one at Chartres Cathedral in France—constructed around the year 1200. It is located at the corner of 7th Street and Liberty at Grace Commons and is open and available to the community for meditative walks. It is also in use for certain worship services of Grace Church.