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St. Paul's Episcopal Church - National Fund For Sacred Places
2023 Cohort

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

(Episcopal)

Key West, Florida

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Key West is home to the oldest U.S. congregation south of St. Augustine, established in 1831, and its iconic 1919 building is the sole remaining house of worship on Duval Street, an area of Key West now known for its bars and nightlife.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Key West by Mike Kindinger

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Key West by Mike Kindinger

2023 Cohort

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

(Episcopal)

Key West, Florida

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Key West is home to the oldest U.S. congregation south of St. Augustine, established in 1831, and its iconic 1919 building is the sole remaining house of worship on Duval Street, an area of Key West now known for its bars and nightlife.

The histories of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and the city of Key West are intertwined from nearly the beginning: settlement of Key West began in 1822, and the St. Paul’s congregation was formed nine years later after a group of citizens petitioned the Episcopal bishop of New York to send a priest. The current church building, completed in 1919, was designed by George Lewis Pfeiffer in the Gothic Revival style, and was constructed with the tropical climate of Key West in mind. The altar faces east to channel ocean breeze through pivoting stained-glass windows, creating a shady and cool interior. The original concrete was a mixture of beach sand, saltwater, limestone aggregate, and cement. St. Paul’s briefly served as a hospital for Union soldiers during the Civil War, and in the late 1800’s became home for a Cuban congregation worshiping in Spanish after the Cuban War of Independence from Spain. LGBTQ+ community members have been welcomed at St. Paul’s since the 1970’s.  

The St. Paul’s congregation views its historic building as its single greatest material asset and a crucial part of its mission. Today, the congregation hosts classical concerts, community choirs, AA meetings, monthly community dinners, an LGBTQ+ youth support group, and other programs within its building. The congregation also partners with a literary seminar, a senior living facility, and a community laundry ministry. 

Unfortunately, the high salt content in the original concrete mixture used to construct St. Paul’s has led to rusting of steel rebar and cracking of walls. A National Fund grant of $250,000 with matching funds of at least $500,000 to be raised by the congregation will be used to repair St. Paul’s concrete exterior walls. 

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Key West by Mike Kindinger

Spotlighting Women’s History at Historic Houses of Worship

Religious institutions have served both as a platform for the advancement of women’s rights and opportunities, and women have played critical roles in advancing religious traditions. The leadership and community building opportunities within these sacred sites have been critical to increasing female independence outside of the home and allowing women to develop institutions that strengthen their congregations and broader communities. The four historic houses of worship highlighted embody positive examples of how the histories of women and religion are inherently linked.

First Church in Oberlin

Stories and Media Coverage

Read more about how the National Fund for Sacred Places is helping congregations around the country rehabilitate their sacred places.

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church by Luis P. Gutierrez