LAKE GEORGE - For 142 years, the stone sanctuary of St. James Episcopal has stood in Lake George, offering a place for people to enjoy a spiritual retreat from the resort village's hustle and bustle.
This building has been a landmark in Lake George since the civil war era.
Back in 1866 when the nation had just emerged from devastating political upheaval, the original 1855 wooden St. James Episcopal Church was "blown down by a mighty wind," according to reports of the day.
When workmen of the time determined that the high, heavy steeple directly atop the roof might have led to the church's collapse, church officials decided to build the church of stone and set the tower on the ground beside the church for solid support - in the manner of the English countryside churches.
Behind the church is Tuttle Hall, built in 1910 with complimentary English architecture. Over the ensuing years, Tuttle Hall has been well-used by the community for school classrooms, voting, high school dances, and at one time housed the only basketball court in the village. More recently, it has served as a youth center and as an American Youth Hostel, in addition to hosting parish activities.
The St. James congregation has its roots in the first continuous Episcopal worship services, a gathering of Lake George family and friends at the home of the church's founding pastor, Rev. Isaac Tuttle. Gathering on the porch of his home Rockledge, beginning in 1852, their meditations and worship meetings became popular enough that they were moved tin August 1855 to the Old County Courthouse - now the Lake George Historical Museum.
According to the church archives, Episcopalians attending that first meeting assumed that the parish would be named St. Luke's - because Tuttle was a well-known New York City priest and rector of St. Luke's parish - but Tuttle had just minutes earlier experienced an inspiration leading to another name, the story goes.
On his way to that first service, rowing from Rockledge to the courthouse, he had been struck by the beauty of the scenery, and had recalled a passage from the Epistle of James: "Every good and perfect gift comes down from above, from the Father of Lights."
The legend goes that he asked for the congregation to be named after the passage's author, St. James.
This first meeting of the organized congregation was reenacted in 2005, in a 150th anniversary celebration, during which Charles Tuttle III portrayed his great-grandfather Isaac's arrival at the courthouse by rowboat.
According to church archives, a variety of furnishings in the church reflect the rich history of the building.
The altar was built at the old county work farm, which is now the Great Meadow State Prison in Comstock.
The organ was manufactured by Ernest M. Skinner & Co., the masterful firm that built the finest instruments of its day, including the organ at St. John the Divine Cathedral in Manhattan. St. James' Skinner organ is one of the four smallest Skinner organs ever built, according to church records.
The cross over the altar was designed and carved by Bob Voyeau, and was given in member of the grandson of the Rev. Isaac Tuttle, Charles Tuttle II.