St. John’s Timeline
In 1769, land was set aside by the Church of England on the site of the future St. John’s. In 1796, a foundation was laid for a two-story building measuring 42′ x 51′. Around 1804, the Church was near completion as bids were obtained for flooring, gallery, pulpit with canopy, and pine table.
After years of growth followed by years of financial problems, St. John’s was closed in 1831, sold and rented as a studio for the German sculptor Ferdinand Pettrich. (Read more here or download a short bio here.) In 1838, a group of young ladies from the parish raised $50 to purchase the church building and return it to sacred use. A year later, improvements were made, including a new organ, a new tower entrance and a brick wall topped with a fence on the north and west sides. Additional Enhancements followed in 1843 with the enlargement of the church, the addition of a basement lecture room, and a baptismal font in the center front. Six years later, the parish commissioned a new pulpit, began improvements to altar rails, added a reading desk, a communion table of black Egyptian marble, a replacement organ, and a bell in the steeple.
In 1853, the church was reconfigured to increase chancel space. Two years later, a baptismal font was placed in front of the first pews, and carpeting, new cushions, and curtains were added. A major and much-needed addition occurred in 1865, when the Sunday School (now the Parish Hall) building was constructed. The year 1870 brought a major church renovation, of which the Washington Post noted, “nothing has been used of the old structure except the walls.” During construction, services were held at Georgetown Presbyterian Church. In 1875, the Rectory was built and occupied.
In 1886, the organ and choir were relocated from the rear gallery to the front of the church. The side galleries were removed, a painting project was undertaken, and the baptistery of the carved oak reredos with an attached altar and removal of the center painting from the oil and canvas triptych, which was returned to the artist, Johannes Oertel. Between 1888 and 1909, the center aisle mosaic floor, the mosaic floor in the chancel area, and the stained glass windows were installed.
A Tower-belfry redesign was completed in 1924, closely followed by the renovation of the Parish Hall, an interior decoration redesign of the church, and the installation of a previously used organ. Major improvements were completed in the post World War II era between 1945 and 1949. This included the renovation of the rectory and the renovation of the church and Parish Hall, during which the altar was moved away from the reredos to allow clergy to face the congregation during Eucharist, and the choir was moved to the location of the former baptistery. In 1951, the Vestry approved a campaign to fund the construction of the Chapel of the Carpenter, the furnishing of the Addison Room, smooth stucco exterior, rectory improvements, carpet in Rector’s office and balcony, and new sub-floor for balcony. In a separate initiative during the year 1965, the organ was renovated.
In 1995, as part of the Bicentennial celebration, the Third Century Campaign was launched to repair and renovate many spaces: structural underpinnings of the sanctuary, second floor design for a new pre-school, the new atrium, a new choir room and offices on the lower level, and moving the Chapel of the Carpenter and Columbarium. The organ was repaired in 1998, followed by a major parish hall renovation in 2005 which created Blake Hall. During 2009, the focus was utilities, as the boiler was replaced, a dedicated air-conditioning system for the sanctuary and Blake Hall was installed.
A major renovation of the church chancel was completed in 2012. The centerpiece of the renovation was the installation of the new pipe organ dedicated to the honor of Dariel Van Wagoner by her Husband, John, and children in honor of her 50 years of participation in the choir and music programs of St. John’s. Additionally, the sacristy was renovated as well as crucial repairs and renovation made in the kitchen and other areas of the church to assure the safety and continued structural soundness of the 200 year-old church.