Cass Gilbert Society


St. Clement's Episcopal Church, Saint Paul, MN

St. Clement's Church, ca. 1910

Minnesota Historical Society

St. Clement's Episcopal Church

Other Names:
St. Clement's Church
901 Portland Avenue, Saint Paul, Minnesota
Design & Construction:
1894-1895[1894-1895 Irish-1999; Christen-2001]
Cass Gilbert 

Constructed of Oneota limestone and trimmed with Indiana limestone, the design is so properly Gothic—including the traditional lych-gate—that the building could have been lifted from the English countryside. Gothic Revival did not play an important role in Gilbert's early work, but that changed when he moved to New York and designed the West Street Building (1905-07) and Woolworth Building (1909-1913).

St. Clement's Church was funded by Mrs. Theodore A. Eaton of New York as a memorial to her late husband, the rector of New York's St. Clement's Church. The funding provided for twenty-one Tiffany windows: a small one of which was later donated to St. John the Divine Episcopal Church (1898-99) in Moorhead, Minnesota, designed by Gilbert.[E. Dray to W. Walton, July 11,1898, Box: 14, Fldr.: 98, MNHS-CGP] The large window over the altar provoked a tiff between Gilbert and Mrs. Eaton and between Gilbert and Tiffany Studios. Gilbert believed the window to be too large for the design. Mrs. Eaton, going behind Gilbert's back, was able to get Tiffany to agree that to get all the details of the composition into the window (as per Mrs. Baton's requirements) a larger window was better. Tiffany apologized to Gilbert and stated they had not taken sides in the controversy.[Tiffany Studios to CG, April 14,1895, Box: 13, Fldr.: 97, MNHS-CGP.] The larger window was built.

Attending the dedication of St. Clement's and later lunching with Gilbert at his home was J.P. Morgan who told Gilbert that he was impressed with the designs. Two years later when Gilbert was trying to win the Montana State Capitol project, he wired Morgan for assistance in influencing the ex-governor of Montana.

In 1906, St. Clement's was discussing whether to begin construction of a guildhall. Gilbert tried for the project, but nothing came of it.[CG to St. Clement's Episcopal Church, November 3,1906, Box: 13, Fldr.: 97, MNHS-CGP.] In 1911, the guildhall was still unbuilt, but it was back on the table. Again, Gilbert tried to get the project. One of the architects vying for the work was Edwin Hewitt who attempted to use his earlier apprenticeship in Gilbert's office to his advantage. Gilbert, wanting the project himself, was indignant. He wrote the committee that if they did not want to hire him, they should hire Holyoke, suggesting that only Gilbert or Holyoke could make a proper job of it. To put into perspective the importance of this project to Gilbert, in 1911, he was building the Woolworth Building, the tallest building in the world. The project was shelved again. When it was built two years later, Clarence Johnston got the job.