The spire atop Trinity Cathedral rises 130 feet to soar over the Brady Street hill, a beacon to faithful Episcopalians, and this year, a rally point for two significant anniversaries.
The Trinity congregation formed 175 years ago, and the construction of the cathedral started in 1867, 150 years past.
It will be rededicated at 10 a.m. Sunday, June 11. A choral service features Iowa bishops — Alan Scarfe, the ninth bishop of Iowa, as well as Christopher Epting, who formerly served the congregation. The day ends with a 4 p.m. lecture by noted Christian scholar from Yale Divinity School, Miroslav Volf.
Episcopalians of New York City dug into their pockets in the 1870s and are credited with providing money to build Trinity Cathedral in Davenport, 1,000 miles to the west.
Construction of the storied cathedral was affected by the economic panic of the 1870s, the Rev. John Horn said. Horn, dean of cathedral, said that of the total $80,000 cost, $5,000 came from Iowans.
The first Episcopal services in Davenport trace to 1837 and were held in the home of Dr. John Emerson, 219 E. 2nd St. Emerson owned the slave Dred Scott, who was to later figure in a historic U.S. Supreme Court decision on race in America.
The first church building was on the northwest corner of 4th and Main streets, and in the next three decades, the parish community moved again, twice.
The second church was erected in 1852 on the southeast corner of 5th and Pershing streets. A few years later, the Episcopalians moved to 7th and Brady streets, where Davenport's Masonic Temple would be located years later.
The cornerstone for the cathedral at 12th and Brady streets was laid in 1867, and it was finished in 1873 as Grace Cathedral, named in honor of its major donors from the east.
The Rev. Henry Washington Lee was elected the first Iowa bishop, and he was the one who built the cathedral, except for the towering spire. Horn describes Lee as a colorful fellow. In fact, the bishop's descendants visited Davenport in 2015, on the 200th anniversary of his birth.
"They came here to celebrate him, and they did," Horn said.
Lee was attracted to Iowa, in part, because when he looked at a map of the state he noticed his name was made up of three southeastern counties: "Henry," "Washington" and "Lee."
He came briefly to Davenport and returned to New York to raise construction money. The Civil War interrupted Lee's plans for a few years, but after it was over, he got big checks from supporters. One was from David J. Ely of Chicago, for $30,000, in memory of his daughter, Sarah.
In total, $80,000 was collected by Lee; that would be $1.6 million in today's dollars, Horn said. Grace Cathedral was consecrated on June 18, 1873, and it merged with Trinity Parish in 1909 to become Trinity Cathedral.
The structure was left uncompleted because Lee ran out of his major funding and had to use nearly $15,000 of his own money. That meant the spire wasn't erected until more than a century passed.
A bequest from Elizabeth "Bubbles" Haines, executive assistant to V.O. Figge, president of Davenport Bank & Trust, made it possible to erect the spire in 1998, Horn said. Haines was baptized at Trinity and attended the church all her life.
Noted members of the church came from the leadership of Davenport. That included the Waterman family, who are attorneys, and the von Maur family of the department store chain.
The main cathedral has spawned other churches, too: St. Alban's in western Davenport (1960) and St. Peter's in Bettendorf (1966).
Other striking accomplishments: The Episcopalians in the 1850s installed the first pipe organ in Iowa and also bought land for what is now Pine Hill Cemetery. In 1879, a member of the parish, Clarissa Cook, made a $50,000 bequest in her will to establish the Clarissa C. Cook Home for the Friendless, and in 1884, the parish began St. Katharine's Episcopal School for Girls, now Rivermont Collegiate.
In 1893, the parish built St. Luke's Hospital in the eastern part of the city, now Genesis Medical Center-East Rusholme Street.
In the 1800s, most people were faithful followers of religion, Horn said; that was typical of the 19th century. However, the outreach didn't stop. In 1994, Trinity established its Positive Parenting program, and now, the church has a preschool program serving children of all socio-economic levels, Horn said.
Current outreach includes weekly meals at King's Harvest, food pantries around the area and work for the Salvation Army. Trinity also participates in PUNCH, or People Uniting Neighbors and Churches, an ecumenical organization in Davenport's Hilltop neighborhood.
The minister said the current population at Trinity Cathedral is stable, but aging. "Too, fewer people are churched to begin with," he said.
What the cathedral offers is a sense of transcendence, "greater than those of us who are here," Horn said.
It also leads to thoughts of the future of Christianity. Michelle Crouch, a professor of music and instructor of voice at Augustana College in Rock Island, leads Trinity's anniversary efforts to look to the future.
Citing the significant contributions Trinity has made in health care, education and music, Crouch said organizers have booked Volf, the Christian theologian and author of "Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World."
Interested parishioners received copies of Volf's book, and it was discussed in five sessions in April and May. The May 21 session, for example, was titled "Unapologetically Christian."
Volf, originally from Yugoslavia who now is with the Yale Divinity School at Yale University, formed his views of Christianity while living in communism and socialism, not capitalism. He argues all are imperfect economic systems.
Crouch, however, said he also speaks on forgiveness and cultural reconciliation and will help people find common ground in this era of divisiveness.