The foundation stone of the present Saint Peter’s was laid on St. Peter’s Day, the 29th of June, 1859. The building was designed by Richard Upjohn, the distinguished architect of Trinity and St. Thomas’ churches, New York City, and with the exception of the vestry room, which was placed on the west instead of the east side of the chancel, and the tower, which was carried only to the eaves of the nave, the church was built in exact accordance with the design of the architect.
The dimensions are: length–136 feet, breadth–68 feet, height–64 feet. The style of architecture is the decorated Gothic, of the French rather than the English type. Its French characteristics appear in the height of the nave and aisles, the apsidal chancel, the moldings and curve of the arches, and especially the details of the completed tower.
The material employed in the construction of the walls is Schenectady blue stone, whose natural cleavage by exposure to the weather has taken a tint of green.
The decorative features of the walls, the doorways and window openings with their double mullions and geometrical traceries, are cut from the brown sandstone of New Jersey. The combination of the two varieties of stone has resulted in fine harmonies and accents of color. The deeply recessed and richly molded arch enclosing the double portal of the church, and the windows of the aisles, clerestory and apse, give to the body of the edifice its decorative points and its architectural interest. The broad, well-projected buttresses between the large windows of the aisles suggest mass and strength. Before the completion of the tower, perhaps the most attractive feature of the exterior was the polygonal apse, whose walls, rising to an unusual height, are pierced by six lancet windows, each of which is bisected by a slender mullion and crowned with elaborate tracery.
It is in its interior effects that the building chiefly declares its devotional values. As one enters the portal, there is thrown over him a spell which compels reverent thought. The whole atmosphere and tone suggest worship. The height of the chancel, the spaciousness of the nave, the dignity of the architectural lines, the harmony of color in the decorative treatment; all contribute to the sense of vastness and solemnity, which is enhanced by the chastened light that takes the dyes of the rich coloring in the windows.
From the foot of the broad alley of the nave, the eye is impressed by the most important structural feature of the interior – the series of arches sustaining the clerestory, which rise from massive octagonal stone columns. The intricate tracery of the roof gives a vague sense of richness, but its details are lost in shadow. The vision is carried along the noble curves of the arches of the nave and rests on the altar surmounted and engirdled by the lofty windows of the apse.
In 1885 important changes were made in the chancel and its environment. The altar originally stood in the chord of the apse, and the choir occupied the gallery over the porch of the church. In that year the present altar and reredos were built into the east wall of the chancel, the north wall of the chancel and the wall at the terminus of the north aisle were pierced with the arches of the organ chamber, and the choir room was built.
In the same year, the walls of the interior were decorated under the supervision of Robert W. Gibson, architect of the Cathedral of All Saints. The decoration is thoroughly Gothic in its spirit and detail. The basis of the design for the decoration of the chancel was furnished by Messrs. Clayton & Bell of London, but its details received judicious modifications from Mr. Gibson. Unfortunately, this wall decoration was all painted over in the nave portion of the church, and the only remaining portions of this work are to be found in the chancel where the altar stands as the dominant feature of the entire edifice.
For photos of the architecture of our church, please visit the photos section.