The Protestant Episcopal Church was the last of the mainline denominations to establish parishes in Indiana. By the time Fort Wayne was laid out in 1823, the Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists, Baptists, and Lutherans had developed flourishing congregations in southern Indiana; but it was not until 1835, when the Right Reverend David Jackson Kemper was consecrated as its first missionary bishop, that any formal activity by the Episcopal Church was instituted in the state. In 1838, Kemper visited Fort Wayne and sent a missionary in 1839, who organized the short-lived Christ Church. In 1842, a local newspaper attempted to explain the absence of an Episcopal Church in the city: “We are not yet old enough for a society of this kind. In other words, there are not people enough in this county who are constitutionally fitted to be Episcopalians.”

In 1844, Peter P. Baily, a newly arrived merchant from New York City, led the local Episcopalians in organizing Trinity Church, electing a vestry and conducting lay reading services in the courthouse. The first chapel, erected on the southeast corner of Berry and Harrison Streets in 1848, was replaced in 1866 by the present Gothic Revival building. This church is Fort Wayne’s oldest unchanged church building.[1]

Trinity Episcopal Church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 13, 1978 for its outstanding architecture. When the church was constructed in 1865-66, it was built as a cruciform church. The outside façade was built with Indiana limestone and had a high gabled multi-colored slate roof. The church features an eight-sided spire bell tower on the north corner of the nave. In the 1940s the slate shingles spire roof was replaced with copper to help reduce the weight of the roof.

While the church has retained its original design, it has had a few alterations over the years. According to the National Register nomination for the church, “Aside from the rebuilding of the spire, interior redecorations, and routine maintenance, the major alteration of the church has been the addition of the education wing in 1955-56. The original cruciform plan with the square bell tower and apse was changed by adding a large “L” addition to the south and west sides of the original building. A parish house had long existed west of the church. However, this facility was determined to be inadequate and was demolished to accommodate the new wing. Although it did not duplicate the window treatment (rectangular openings instead of pointed arches), the wing matches the original stone work and slate roof very closely.”[2]

[1] The Bicentennial Heritage Trail Committee, On the Heritage Trail: A Walking Guidebook to the Fort Wayne Heritage Trail (Fort Wayne: ARCH, Inc., 1994), 160-161.

[2] Alice Bird and Rev. Corydon Randall, “National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Trinity Episcopal Church,” National Park Service, (accessed 2/15/2016).