| In order to fully grasp the
history of Holy Trinity Church we must go back to 1887
and look at the beginning history of The Episcopal
Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach, as the
roots of both churches are closely intertwined. In
the winter of 1887-88 the Rt. Rev. E. Gardner Weed,
Bishop of Florida, came to the place we now call Palm
Beach and conducted the first Episcopal service ever
held in the area. Sensing the future need, he
secured a piece of property and appealed for a clergyman
to establish a mission there.
Rev. Joseph N. Mulford, Rector of Christ Church, Troy,
New York, answered the call and arrived with his
family in January, 1889. Rev. Mulford
immediately began holding services in the local
one-room school house on the east side of the lake and
set in motion efforts to build a church on the
property purchased by Bishop Weed. The building,
with a seating capacity of 100, was completed
and used for the first time in April, 1889. It
was Mrs. Mulford who gave the church it's name,
|In 1889 the population around the lake was about 250. A letter written by a resident at the time described how the church was often filled to overflowing, and that people of all denominations attended, often having to start for church one to three hours early in order to make the trip, as in those days all transportation was by water: "It was a beautiful sight to see the lake dotted here and there with sails and all finally assembling at the church pier."2 This corresponds with Holy Trinity's earliest accounts of people rowing or sailing across the lake to attend Bethesda services.|
| By 1892 the efforts of Henry
M. Flagler to establish Palm Beach as a resort had
resulted in a rapid increase in population on both sides
of the lake. 1894 was an important year: work was
begun on the second Bethesda church, Henry Flagler
brought in the Florida East Coast Railroad, and the town
of West Palm Beach was incorporated. The second
Bethesda church was finished in the spring of
1895. It was located on North Lake Trail a short
distance north of the first church.
those early years, Episcopalians in West Palm Beach
often met in their homes. Only during the months
of November through May when the Bethesda church
was open and holding services, and when the weather
would allow, could they row or sail across the lake to
attend services. Meanwhile, the population was
growing. In the fall of 1894, Rev. Mulford,
Priest-in-Charge at Bethesda, began holding occasional
services in West Palm Beach. Surely at that
time or soon thereafter, the idea that a new church
was needed in West Palm Beach must have emerged and
taken root. By whichever pathway it found, it
was over a year before the first official step was
Women's Guild, Building Fund, Organization as a Mission
church's first organizational event
took place in 1896 with the formation of a Women’s
Guild. Louis Fitz-James Hindry, a Lay Reader and
principal of the local school, conducted the first
regular Sunday services in 1897.
Services were held in the community building and library known as the "Free Reading Room" on the lakefront. This building had been donated to the town by C. J. Clarke and brought by barge from his property on the east side of the lake. At that time there were about 60 resident members.
Later that year a Building Fund was established for a
new church building and an appeal was made to the
greater area community. A down payment was made
on a property offered through the generosity of Henry
M. Flagler at a greatly reduced price, with the
condition that within a certain period of time a
church, with a minimum value of $1,500, must be built
(see the 1897
Building Fund Appeal)
In 1898 the church became organized as a mission and adopted the name Holy Trinity. Rev. Hindry, who had by then entered the ministry, conducted Holy Trinity's first services as a mission church. In 1899 Rev. Mulford at Bethesda retired. Rev. Hindry was appointed by Bishop Gray to be Missionary-In-Charge at Bethesda-by-the-Sea3, but he remained involved in the establishment of Holy Trinity Church.
The First Church Building and First Priest
| The Rev.
James J. Vaulx conducted services on a temporary basis
for a few weeks, beginning in December 1901, while on
vacation from Arkansas. Upon moving here in the
fall of 1902, Bishop Gray appointed him to Holy Trinity
and on November 1, 1902 he became the first
Priest-In-Charge. In July, 1905, Rev. Vaulx
retired, concluding a period of steady growth (see Rev. Vaulx's farewell message).
According to church records he performed 28 baptisms during his tenure. Services were conducted by Col. R. Overend Davies, as Lay Reader, until the following October when the Rt. Rev. Dwight Cameron became Priest-In-Charge and continued until June, 1907.
In February 1903, a rectory was built alongside the church, facing Dixie. By the following Easter, 1904, the church had been enlarged by the addition of a chancel (which allowed for seating a choir) and a vestry room.
| On October 27, 1907, The Rev.
H. Ashton Henry assumed charge. Under his
leadership the mission was admitted as a parish on
January 15, 1908, at the 16th Convocation of the
Missionary Jurisdiction of Southern Florida held in
Orlando. Note: This is the date upon which our
anniversary celebrations are based.
Rev. Henry served as Holy Trinity's first Rector, and Andrew J. Lewis as the first Sr. Warden. Under their leadership the rectory was enlarged and improved, and in 1910 a building fund was inaugurated. During all these years, whenever the church at intervals lacked a priest, services were held through the devotion of Col. R. Overend Davies as Lay Reader
The Rev. Mr. Henry resigned on August 3, 1912, on account of ill health and the following December the Rev. Gilbert A. Ottman became Rector, serving for the next three years. On March 1, 1916, the Rev. Lionel A. Wye became Rector and served for ten years, a crucial period which included the building of the current church.
Move Original Church To New Property
| Through the business acumen
and foresight of Rev. Wye, in 1917 the parish acquired a
new site which had been the lakefront home of the J. R.
Anthony family. A bicycle path ran along the lake
in front of the home. The lake extended to the
present site of Chase Street, forming the eastern border
of the new church property.
original church building was moved to its new
location, on the site of the present parish hall, in
June 1917, and the Anthony house became the new
rectory. A small frame house on the premises
that had been occupied by Capt. J. Rembert Anthony,
patriarch of the Anthony clan and a Confederate
veteran, was used briefly for Sunday school ro
The Present Church Building
| The church was incorporated in
1923. Work was started the same year toward a new
edifice and was completed in 1924. The rectory was
moved north to parallel the construction, facing the
L. Phillips Clarke, of Harvey and Clarke, was architect for the new church, as he was later for the new parish hall in 1929 and for the new rectory and Sunday School rooms built later. Wilcox Bros. Inc., contractors, built the church and also did repair work after it suffered hurricane damage in 1928.
marble and mosaic work was done by craftsmen from
Italy, who brought much of the material with
them. Louis S. Clarke (whose father, C. J.
Clarke, had donated the community building in which
the original church group met, and whose son was
architect for the present building) made the
chandeliers for the church by hand, together with the
chains by which they hang, all of which he forged
himself. The marble altar and the original
Skinner organ were made possible by generous
First Service, 1928 Hurricane, and Later Additions
|On February 24, 1924, the first service was held in the new church. The old church building was then used as a parish hall until it was destroyed in the hurricane of September 1928.|
In May 1929 work was started on the first two units of a new parish hall. The cornerstone was laid on July 14th and work was completed in September. A choir room, kitchen quarters and a new rectory were added in 1939. Funding for and work on the Sunday school rooms which frame the current courtyard commenced in 1948.
The Depression Years and Church Consecration
| The collapse of the land boom
in 1926, the killer hurricane in 1928, and the stock
market crash of 1929 brought development to a halt in
the region. Holy Trinity, holding a large debt for
the new building, endured a very difficult struggle and
at one point foreclosure was threatened. However,
in 1938 as the depression waned, the debt was
restructured and disaster was averted.
formal consecration of the church was held on April
29, 1945, after the mortgage was retired. The
event was hailed in the press as "the high point in
the history of the Episcopal congregation in West Palm
Beach." The consecration services were conducted
by Bishop John D. Wing of the Diocese of South
Florida, before a congregation that packed the
building. The Rev. William S. Turner was rector
at that time.
Through The Years
| Memorials and gifts throughout
the years, too numerous to detail in this limited space,
have enhanced the beauty of the church. A large
Skinner organ was added to the original organ in 1939,
and other additions were subsequently made. The
stained glass windows were installed over a period
spanning sixty years, with the first window, the large
rose window over the altar, being installed in
1924. The most ambitious window addition program
occurred in the 1950s with the Rev. James Stirling as
Rector. The most recently installed windows, in
the south wall of the Baptistry, were installed in 1984.
| Having originally been started
with the help of Bethesda-by-the-Sea, Holy Trinity has
in turn through the years helped start five other
Episcopal churches in the area: St. Andrews Church, Lake
Worth, St. Georges, Riviera Beach, St. Marks, Palm Beach
Gardens, The Church of the Holy Spirit, West Palm Beach,
and Grace Episcopal Church, West Palm Beach.
|Since 1901, Holy Trinity has been served by 17 Rectors or Priests-In-Charge, two of which, the Revs. Martin Bram and Henry Louttit, later became Bishops in the Diocese:|
| 1 The photograph of Rev. Mulford kindly
supplied by Mr. Jethro M. Hurt, archivist at
2 From History Of The Episcopal Church of Bethesda-By-The-Sea 1889-1989, by Kathryn E. Hall. Back
3 Rev. Hindry later had the title of Rector at Bethesda-by-the-Sea and served there through December, 1903 Back
4 One account has the location at Poincettia and Evernia. It is possible that what we now call Dixie Highway was then called Poincettia. Back