The Mother Church of the Diocese of Tennessee, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Franklin is the state’s oldest Episcopal church and serves its oldest Episcopal congregation. Built with handmade bricks eighteen to twenty-four inches thick, the forty-by-eighty-three-foot church was organized on August 25, 1827, and completed in 1834.
During the Civil War, Union soldiers quartered in St. Paul’s built fires on the floor and cut holes in the roof to let smoke out; they made firewood out of the pews, pulpit and the mahogany pipe organ. St. Paul’s was used as a hospital after the November 30, 1864, battle of Franklin. Later, Union troops stabled mules in the church.
After the war, a carpenter briefly made the church on Main Street his workshop, but it was empty and neglected in June 1869, when the Reverend Edward Bradley arrived as rector. Bradley led the congregation of seventeen women and four men in reclaiming and repairing St. Paul’s. They eliminated the slave gallery and replaced the flat roof with a peaked roof that was twenty feet lower. Leftover bricks went into the Parish Commons Hall. The altar and sanctuary were moved to the north side, and several windows were reduced. St. Paul’s was reconsecrated on January 25, 1871. In 1902 federal officials paid the congregation for damages caused by Union soldiers.
Improvements made before 1917 included installation of Louis Comfort Tiffany-designed stained glass memorial windows and paneling of the sanctuary. In 1970 offices, a library, a bigger parish hall, classrooms for the church school, and a kitchen were completed. St. Paul’s was added to the National Register of Historic places in 1972.
Sara Sprott Morrow, “St. Pauls Church, Franklin,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 34 (1975): 3-18