Built in 1869, St. Thomas’ is the oldest church building in Bath. It replaced a wooden structure in the southeast corner of Pulteney Square built in 1836. A painting of the original church by Silas Wood dating from 1837 hangs in the Memorial Room of the Cook Memorial Parish House.
The first Service from The Book of Common Prayer in Steuben County was conducted at the behest of Elizabeth Hull Townsend, “that mother of the church” as one of the old rectors called her. It was conducted by the Rev. Caleb Hopkins in the Bath Court House in 1815. From that time to the present, ministries of worship, service, caring, and education have been sponsored by the Episcopal Church in this area.
The Church was opened January 28, 1871. Judge Constant Cook was the prime mover and benefactor of the project. Its architect was Henry Dudley of New York who designed a “stone building of neo-Gothic design including a clerestory [the upper part of the church containing windows for lighting the central part of the church], with nave and aisles, and chapel attached.”
The Church building is 118 feet from the west door to the altar in the east-facing apse [semicircular projection of the church with a domed roof]. Originally there was seating for 750 in the Church, but in the middle 20th century, it was reduced to 500 by the removal of some rear pews and the erection of the Narthex screen. A 3,097-pound bell, cast in Troy, NY, was hung in the tower in 1871. The stone cross atop the spire rises 131 feet from the ground.
The windows are the most prominent features of the interior. They are all contemporary with the building, and most commemorate the lives of early 19th century communicants. Reading the inscriptions is like inspecting a street map of the Village of Bath. The windows in the clerestory level are cinquefoils, representing the five wounds of the risen Christ and are 20th-century replacements of damaged original glass.
The aisle windows are full of grisaille work [a style of painting on glass in monochrome and giving the effect of sculpture in relief] and exhibit central medallions, a motif typical of the day. The windows in the apse and on the lower level of the west front are pictorial efforts of great beauty. The apse windows show the four evangelists as well as “The Trial of Faith” from the life to St. Thomas. On the west front, the windows depict biblical events in which women figure importantly, such as Ruth gleaning in the fields of Boaz, the Samaritan woman at the well, the raising of the daughter of Jairus, and the Ascension of Christ with Mary in prominence.
The lancets in the upper level of the west front highlight the two Sacraments of the Gospel, Baptism and Holy Communion and the wheel window is meant to show the mystery of the Holy Trinity. The little window in the peak is called the “Rector’s Eye.” The window similarly placed in the Chapel is called the “Warden’s Eye.” The present configuration of the organ (23 ranks) probably contains a few ranks from the original instrument installed in 1870. It is the work of nearby organ builders. The present console was the gift of St. Thomas’ Church of Rochester in 1987.
Remnants of the original building on Pulteney Square include the marble memorial tablets in the tower room, a stained glass window (now crated), the font of Italian marble which was the gift of the Sunday School in 1866 and the pair of wooden alms basins carved by a former rector and still in weekly use in the Chapel.
The pulpit, lectern, litany desk, sanctuary chairs, credence shelf, the central section of the reredos, and the altar all date from the 1870-1890 period. The wooden baptismal font that is used regularly came from St. James’ Episcopal Church in Avoca when that parish closed.
The central, ornamental portion directly behind the altar (the reredos) was donated in 1896 by Mary B. Towle in honor of her parents, Mr. & Mrs. Henry Brother.
The flanking parts were apparently added in 1912 to accommodate two oil paintings on canvas, which were installed in 1913. The painting on the left is “The Annunciation of the Angel to the Shepherds” by the 16th century Venetian Jacopo Bassano.
On the right is “The Adoration of the Magi” by Vicentino, a contemporary of Bassano. These paintings were cleaned and restored in 2008.
The large “Madonna and Child” in the nave was painted by Vincenzo Camuccini (1771-1844) and was given to the Parish in 1932 by Katherine Sharpe Davenport.
The Georgia pine ceiling in the nave was installed in 1906, the gift of Sarah Lyon Davenport. The ceramic tile floor in the choir and sanctuary was laid in 1928.
The Parish House was erected in 1904 as a memorial for his wife by Henry Harvey Cook, elder son of Judge Cook. Remodeled extensively in the 1960s, it consists of four floors of classrooms, community rooms, and offices. Chief among its features is the Great Hall with Tudor style hammered-beam ceiling.