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Historic Properties

National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places

Tour of National Register Historic Places in Seward

National Register Historic Places in Seward

  • Jesse Lee Home
  • Ballaine House
  • Lowell Creek Diversion Tunnel
  • St. Peter's Church
  • Seward Depot
  • US Cable Office
  • Swetman House
  • Van Gilder Hotel
  • Brown and Hawkins Store

    239 Second Avenue,

    P.O. Box 676
    Seward, Alaska 99664

    St. Peter’s Church was formed June 12, 1904 with a small group of people meeting at the residence of Dr. Daniel H. Sleem. The celebrant was Reverand F.C. Taylor of Valdez where he was the priest-in-charge of the Church of the Epiphany. During next few years services alternated between Moore’s Hall, the Alaska Northern Railroad depot and a tent the members erected.

    During the winter of 1905, plans for construction were made for the Second Avenue Building. A late January 1906 arrival of building materials allowed the construction to begin, and by mid-March the majority of the exterior work was completed.

    The pioneer Alaskan prelate Bishop P.T. Rowe dedicated the church. Since his first visit on April 1, 1906, Rowe would occasionally visit the congregation, performing baptisms and confirmations. St. Peter’s Church was the first Protestant church established on the Kenai Peninsula.

    St. Peter’s embraced the spirit of ecumenism. and its membership joined with the Catholics for special occasions. They worked together with all the other church congregations to meet the important needs of the community. The Woman’s Auxiliary raised funds, aided the church and helped with many social projects. A Sunday School was also organized shortly after the completion of the building.

    Although it was established early in Seward’s history, the Church suffered for extended periods of time without a resident priest. Initially it was visited periodically by clerics headquartered at Valdez and the Episcopalian Bishop of Alaska, P.T. Rowe.

    In 1915, the Reverend Edward H. Mohony, who was the missionary in charge of the Prince William Sound area, came to Seward to organize a permanent post.

    From the membership a finance committee was appointed, establishing Harry L. Balderston as chairperson, Erich Lucas as treasurer, Andrew G. de Sherbinin and Charles H. Clark. St. Peter’s Guild organized church officers: Mrs. Sam M. Graff, president; Mrs. W.E. Root, vice president; Mrs. Erich Lucas, secretary; and Mrs. A.G. de Sherbinin, treasurer.

    Mohony had originally planned to return to Anchorage on the Farragut with his family, but the port was ice bound and inaccessible. The ship returned to Seward, where the local community persuaded the Reverand to stay until spring.

    The Reverend Mohony, his wife, and daughters Shelia and Molly stayed at the Thoday residence as the Episcopalians had no rectory. Mohony had originally volunteered to come to Alaska to stay with Bishop Rowe for one year, but remained for three. He was stationed at Valdez, organized the church in Anchorage, and visited Kodiak.

    Entirely at his own expense, Mohony traveled more than 5,000 miles on Alaska waters. He traveled 2,300 miles on dog sled through Interior Alaskan trails. Mohony organized a mission at Shungnat on the Kobuk River. He was the first missionary to visit the Nabesna and Tetlin Indians. The Reverend Mohony and his family left Alaska for California on May 5, 1916,

    On November 20, 1916, Reverand George John Zinn arrived to hold services and meet with parishioners to discuss building a rectory so a permanent clergyman could remain in Seward. Zinn purchased the lot adjacent to the church from the Ballaines for $250, and made plans to buy the adjoining lot in the future.

    Zinn noted that the church building was complete, but had no interior furnishings. There was no altar, pews, chairs or other necessities to conduct services. It needed a new chimney and a heating plant. Services were being held in the basement, using a storage box as an altar.

    The Reverend Zinn was alternating services between Valdez and Seward – but it is recorded that in February 1917, he was also curate of St. John’s Episcopal Church in New York…which may have assisted in his fundraising efforts.

    Zinn sketched plans and specifications for a rectory and mailed them to an architect. He obtained funds to complete the interior of the church as well as and build and furnish the rectory. The construction of the Episcopal rectory was authorized in August 1917, and by November the outside work was completed.

    In February 1917, a small circulating library was established when Miss E.K. Chamberlain, a member of the St. James Episcopal Church of Monclair, New Jersey donated more than 100 books of recent fiction, scientific, and theological books to the church. Mrs. A.H. McNeer was the first librarian, opening Thursdays at her home.

    In 1921, the Reverend E.W. Hughes of Anchorage led services at Seward on every third Sunday. The Woman’s Guild was organized in 1922. In 1923, Anchorage Reverend Burdette Lansdowne served the Seward Episcopalians.

    St. Peter’s was blessed in 1924, when Dutch artist, Jan Van Emple came to Seward for a two year visit. It has been reported that Van Emple ran away from home and came to the New World as a cabin boy. From September to November of 1925, he worked on his first sacred picture, “The Resurrection,” for the rear of the church’s altar. This reredos is a unique work as it depicts the Ascension and well as the Resurrection of Christ.

    Instead of apostles, the painting includes people of Alaska. Eskimos, a trapper, a fisherman and a pioneer woman make up the foreground. The little Indian mother is unable to lift her head to up to heaven with the rest because her baby weighs so heavily upon her back.

    The prospector, a self-portrait of Van Emple, stands in his rough shirt and suspenders, rugged, true to life, his shallow round pan dropped from his hand and rolled against the open seplchre. The angels on either side of Christ are portraits of Van Emple’s two sisters. The empty tomb is shown against the mountains and waters of Resurrection Bay.

    The whole conception forms a work of great piety and unusual beauty. $650 was raised by subscription for this painting which reflects the Church’s teaching to “preach peace to them that are far off and to them that are nigh.”

    Van Emple was featured in the Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Studio Club when it opened in New York in 1918, and took part in a number of East Coast exhibits. His work is held in the collections of the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, and is currently featured in nine published works. Van Emple is mostly known for his coastal landscapes of Alaska.

    In 1927, Anchorage Reverend William A. Thomas and Cordova Reverend L.F. Kent conducted services at St. Peters. July 1928, W.R. MacPherson became a pastor at St. Peters. In June 1929 MacPherson met with Fairbanks Bishop Rowe to receive his ordination into the deaconate of the church. MacPherson transferred to Anchorage in February 1930.

    On September 25, 1938 the Guild of St. Peters Episcopal Church was organized. Officers were Mrs. Edith Thoday, president; Mrs. Katherine Rager, vice president; and Mrs. Beryl Wagner, secretary-treasurer.

    Father Warren R. Fenn, pastor of Anchorage’s All Saints Episcopal Church, conducted services occasionally from the late 1930s to the 1940s. In 1968, Father Randall Mendelsohn was replaced by Father Everett Wenrick. In 1978, Reverend Charles Lechner conducted services.

    Commissioned Lay Minister Mary Elizabeth Lee was the minister during the late 1970s and 1980s. Mrs. Myrle Diener was ordained into the Episcopal priesthood at Seward on June 11, 1988 and was subsequently installed as vicar. Diener served the congregation through April 1993, with Vicar Ron N. Heister arriving in September 1993.

    In 2004, the Reverand Robert Thomas thevicar@stpeters-seward.org serves as vicar and Br. Emmanuel Williamson mymonk@stpeters-seward.org serves as BSG.