A Brief History of Trinity Cathedral

First ChurchTrinity Cathedral traces its history to the mid-1840's when overland immigrants began pouring into the area from the Oregon Trail. Among them was the Rev. Michael Fackler, a recent graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary, who had taken the long trip in hopes that the climate might be beneficial to his failing health. On his arrival, he became the first Anglican clergyman in the vast area which is now Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah and Montana. Although he was never well enough to establish a parish, he did obtain permission to hold occasional services using the Book of Common Prayer in the first Methodist Church in the area.

In May of 1851, the first "official" missionary priest, the Rev. William Richmond arrived and decided to settle in the newly opened town of Portland. Much to his surprise, he found an already thriving Episcopal presence, so, the following Sunday, he and Father Fackler held an organizing service with four communicant members. They decided to name the new parish "Trinity," and obtained permission to use the newly completed Portland school house for regular worship services.

Richmond wrote in late June, "We had services in the Public School House this morning. There was one female present, and her little daughter, and about twenty men. The services at night were attended by about thirty men, no females. Most of the few men who will attend our services here are without their families, or are single men. There is a constant change in the population. The Methodist clergymen have about fifty communicants, and the Congregationalists, whose house of worship has just been completed and opened for two Sundays, have ten...."

By 1853, the congregation had grown to twenty-five regular worshippers, enough to call a permanent rector (the Rev. John D. McCarty) and undertake construction of its own building on 2nd and Oak Street, on land donated by parishioner Benjamin Stark, one of the earliest leaders of Portland. When the little wooden structure was consecrated by missionary bishop, The Right Rev. Thomas Fielding Scott, in 1854, it was the first Episcopal church building north of San Francisco and west of St. Paul.

The city of Portland grew very rapidly in the years following the Civil War and the congregation burgeoned to over 200 regular members, totally overwhelming the little building meant only to hold fifty or so worshippers. Thus, in 1871, the members of the parish decided to purchase a half block lot at the corner of 6th and Oak Street and set about building a new "permanent" church, a building they felt would lend an air of permanence to the city itself.

Very different from its log cabin predecessor, this building included stained glass windows, an organ, and a steeple with a bell which had been made from melted down cannons. It meant that Trinity and the Episcopal Church were here to stay.

As it grew in the late Nineteenth century, Trinity parish was actively involved in the establishment of Good Samaritan Hospital (1873) and the Trinity Mission Chapel (St. Mark's parish). Eventually it would also "spin off" Ascension Church, originally a Sunday School chapel for Trinity children.

By the turn of the 20th century, Trinity Church was home to many of Portland's most prominent citizens. So widespread was its reputation, that when a young architect arrived from the East and asked how he could make his way in Portland society, he was advised to "join Trinity parish and marry a Couch." (He did both.)Trinity Church

Increasingly, however, the area around the church was becoming less and less residential and more and more commercial. When the building at 6th and Oak was struck by fire in 1902, the parish made the decision to locate its new building elsewhere, in the then fashionable district of NW 19th Street where many of the parishioners lived. While the new building was being constructed, the congregation worshiped in Bishop Scott Academy Drill Hall, on the site of the present parish house. The new church, which still houses Trinity parish, was consecrated on Oct. 14, 1906.

In the Twentieth Century, Trinity enjoyed long rectorship of several prominent church men, each of whom made a unique contribution to the parish. The Rev. A. A. Morrison (rectorship: 1899-1929) was an early leader in ecumenical affairs in the city and region. The Rev. Francis Ball (rectorship: 1929-1936) saw the parish through the heaviest days of the Great Depression. The Rev. Dr. Lansing E. Kempton (rectorship: 1937-1967) oversaw great expansion in church membership and the building of the parish house. The Rev. Pitt Willand (rectorship: 1967-1976) took the parish through a turbulent period of change in the Church and in wider society. The Rev. William H. Wagner Jr. (rectorship: 1977-1990) led the parish during the period of liturgical renewal to undertake construction of the Rosales organ and renovation of the nave and sanctuary.

Trinity courtyardIn November 1993, two years after the arrival of past dean, the Very Rev. Anthony C. Thurston, Trinity was consecrated as cathedral for the Diocese of Oregon. Under Dean Thurston's leadership, the parish has undergone a time of rapid expansion again in terms of numbers and diversity.
Upon the retirement of Dean Thurston in 2002, and after a search period of about 18 months, a new dean, The Very Rev. William Lupfer was named and installed in 2004.

Today about 2000 people from all over the greater Portland area make Trinity their church home. The parish is known in the broader community for its superb music, its broad educational program for all ages, its youth programming, and its developing outreach to the city and beyond. It is also home to the Trinity Bookstore. As it has been since its beginning in the pioneer days of the Oregon Trail, it is among the largest Episcopal parishes in the Pacific Northwest.