What will $80,000 buy? Back in November 1959, it purchased 25 acres at Old French Road and the City Line from the Scott/Strong Estate located at the southeast corner of Old French Road. The Rt. Reverend William Crittendon, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Erie, broke ground November 1, 1960, and installed the Rev. Paul Long as the Rector.
St. Mark’s roots began many years prior with its charter being approved April 6, 1896, when D.A. Sawdy, Rector, and St. Mark’s Vestry purchased property at 10th and French Streets in downtown Erie, PA. Between 1866 and 1868 two events took place that were to become the foundation of the Parish we now know as St. Mark’s.
In October 1866, the Rev. J. N. Black came to Erie and held services once every two weeks on weekday evenings in the homes of some of the parishioners of St. Paul’s Church in Erie. So much interest was raised that a parish organization was formed. By May 1868, St. John’s Parish was incorporated into the diocese at the 1868 convention. The following month, plans were prepared for a church edifice, which was then erected on a lot on 16th street between Peach and Sassafras.
The second event that brought about the birth of St. Mark’s occurred in October of 1869. Eighteen months after a mission church had been established by the Rev. J.F. Spalding, rector of St. Paul’s, the number of adult members in the congregation was enough to become a self supporting parish. The following July, the cornerstone for the new church was laid, and in February 1871 the whole edifice, ready for use and free from debt, was consecrated.
At the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania convention in July 1872, the Church of the Cross and Crown was admitted as an entirely independent and self-supporting parish. Unfortunately little is documented on the events that led up to the merging of these two congregations in 1895. The building used by St. John’s was literally moved from its lot on 16th Street to its new home at 10th and French Streets. The charter for St. Mark’s Parish was approved April 6, 1896.
For 65 years St. Mark’s was a viable parish and known as “the Church around the corner” because it became lost amidst the downtown buildings. By 1960, as with any structure, the building that housed the parishioners of St. Mark’s started to show its age and deteriorate in addition to losing parishioners to the suburbs.
It was at this time the Diocese, Fr. Paul Long, and members of the church vestry purchased the Old French Road property not only for the purpose of building a new church but to erect an Episcopal School. The new structure provided a seating capacity for 234 people and had an undercroft (or lower level) for educational purposes. The first services on the property were held in what now is known as McGovern Hall until the Church proper was completed. St. Mark’s saw four gifted Rectors from 1974 through 2009.