St. James Episcopal Church
By: Dan Gibbs
The architecture on Main Street in Hendersonville has always fascinated me but one building at the end of Main Street, St. James Episcopal Church, stands out above all of the others. The church building looks like it should be sitting in the English countryside somewhere.
The history St. James Episcopal Church is almost as old as Hendersonville itself. St. James got its start in 1843 when services were first held in Hendersonville. St. Johns in the Wilderness’ services were held more during the summer months and a place was sought in Hendersonville to meet the needs of the year-round residents. They were first held in a block building built by the parishioners.
The original church building was consecrated in 1863 at the height of the Civil War. The church did not have a bell tower but a single bell hung from a platform in the churchyard. At the end of the Civil War, that bell was allegedly stolen by Union General George Stoneman’s troops during their raid through Henderson County in April 1865.
War has had an impact on St. James Episcopal Church. Right before World War I began, construction was started on a new chancel behind the church to increase seating capacity and the construction was stopped due to the War. The construction was not completed until after World War II. The War Memorial Chapel was designed by renowned architect Erle Stillwell in 1952.
St. James also has an English flavor to it. The windows in St. James were replaced in the mid-1960’s with stained glass windows that were designed by Frederick Cole of Westminster, England. He was also responsible for the restoration of the Canterbury Cathedral’s windows. In 1978 the Patton Memorial Bell Tower is dedicated and it has eight English-made change ringing bells. It is one of only two churches in North Carolina that has these bells.
The church has a website, stjamesepiscopal.com, that is worth checking out for the history of the bells and of the church itself.