History of St. Stephen's Parish
Missionary Work 1835-1839 -- The Rt. Rev. Jackson Kemper, Missionary Bishop of Missouri and Indiana, says in his address to the second annual convention of the Indiana diocese that he visited Terre Haute "during the fall of 1835" and "again in January and July 1838." Addressing the third annual convention of the diocese, Bishop Kemper says, "Friday night, July 16th, 1839, I officiated at Terre Haute." Parish historical files contain a letter from a church member in Vincennes, carried by Bishop Kemper as an introduction to the people of Terre Haute in 1838. The Rev. Charles Prindle began missionary work in Terre Haute on November 10, 1839, and was named Rector of St. Stephen's on June 15, 1840.
Founding of the Parish -- 1839-1840 The cornerstone of the present church building at the corner of Seventh and Eagle Streets shows the founding of the Parish in 1839. The official meeting for organizing and naming the parish was on April 15, 1840, at the home of Levi Warren. Present were Thomas H. Blake and William F. Krumbhaar, who were elected wardens; and Levi Warren, Jacob Bourne, Richard Blake, W. L. Stone, John Rutledge, L. O. Shultz, Jonas Warren, G. W. Langworthy, and the Rev. Charles Prindle, who had been at work here as a missionary since the previous November.
Mission Churches notably St. Paul's and St. Luke's were established by the parish in the 1880s and continued until the early 1900's. In 1923 the parish aided in the founding of St. George's Church at Ferguson Hill, West Terre Haute, now a mission of the Diocese.
First Church Building -- 1845 During the ministry of the Rev. Robert B. Croes (September 1842 to June 1850) the first St. Stephen's Church building was erected between Main (Wabash) and Cherry Streets on the west side of Fifth Street. The cornerstone was laid on January 1, 1845, and the building was consecrated by Bishop Kemper on October 2, 1845.
Present Church Building -- 1862-1870The basic structure of the present church building, i.e. the nave, transepts, sanctuary and sacristy, was begun in 1862 and completed in 1870. The bell tower was added in 1874, and the great bell was placed in 1884. The first service in this building was on March 8, 1863.
The Great Hall, Cloister Room and several other rooms were added in 1891 during the rectorship of the Rev. James D. Stanley. Included were the present choir room, vesting rooms, kitchen, Cloister Room and Great Hall.
Chapel, Education Building, Cloister Porch and Formal Garden were added in 1957 and 1958 when the Rev. Thomas Mabley was Rector. The Rectory, built immediately south of the church on Seventh Street during the tenure of the Rev. Walter Delafield in 1885, was removed to make way for the new building, which provides space for the Chapel, parish offices, the Rector's study, the Jackson Kemper Room, nursery, library, undercroft, and several multi-purpose classrooms and meeting rooms. This building completes the present St. Stephen's complex, forming a "U" shape around the formal garden with the church on the north, the chapel-education-administration building on the south, and the Cloister Room, Cloister Porch and Great Hall on the east, connecting the other two buildings.
Major Renovations, Redecoration
Stone Exterior The first major renovation occurred in 1906 during the rectorship of the Rev. John E. Sulger. The church's brick exterior walls were faced with Bedford limestone in memory of the dead of the parish. Members of the parish gave the stained glass windows, created in Chicago, in memory of their loved ones.
In the 1960's during the tenure of the Rev. Harold Taylor, the church nave and transepts were completely redone with new floors, walls, ceilings, lighting fixtures, and window wells. Exquisite polychrome work was applied to the beams and arches. The 13th century design concepts came from St. Mary's Church, Ulford, Surrey, and Wells Cathedral in England. At that time the altar was moved into the crossing and the organ console and choir were located in the sanctuary. A polychrome screen (now at the west end of the nave) separated the choir from the altar and the nave.
The Sanctuary as it is today is the result of restoration work done during the rectorship of the Reverend Joseph Rickards in the early 1970s. The white marble altar was restored to the east wall and a 17-foot Coronation tapestry was hung behind it. An eight foot hand-carved wooden cross was suspended in front of the dossal. A second altar was placed so that the celebrant faces the congregation during the Eucharist. An alternate arrangement allows the removal of the dossal and wooden cross to show the window in the east wall. With this sanctuary restoration, the organ console and choir were moved to present locations in the north transept. A new gothic style altar rail, executed in walnut, was installed to give more room at the rail and to enhance the beauty of the Church. The remainder of the nave was left as it had been redone in the 1960s.
In the 1960s members of the parish helped with construction of three seven-foot chandeliers in the Great Hall designed after a chandelier in St. Mary's Church, Bridgewater England, and featuring shields of saints. Large carved polychrome shields of St. Stephen and other saints are distinctive decorative features on the walls of the Great Hall.
The Mabley Garden The formal garden, added in 1958 and now a landmark of downtown Terre Haute, was named "The Mabley Garden" by the Vestry in 1982, "in Thanksgiving for the ministry of the Rev. Thomas Mabley, Rector of St. Stephen's 1940-1960, and his wife Clara Batjer Mabley." Mrs. Mabley participated in the dedication service in April 1982.
Marks of the 1982 restoration project are the paneling in the Cloister Room, a deep red wainscot topped with a gilt gold band in the Great Hall, painting and lowered ceiling in the kitchen, creating vesting/ meeting rooms at the north end, new lighting, and new tables and chairs in the Great Hall.
The Chapel During the 1990's members of the parish renovated and redecorated the nursery, church school classrooms and the chapel. Work done in the chapel included replastering, painting, cleaning, redesigning altar area, refinishing cork floor, and new altar pulpit and altar rail. In May, 1999, The Rt. Rev. Catherine Waynick consecrated the restored and redecorated Chapel.