A foggy morning on Mt. Alban with a view of the main entrance and bell tower.
The St. Alban’s story began with young Phoebe Nourse, granddaughter of Joseph Nourse, who owned the land named Mount Alban where our parish sits today. Joseph hoped a church would be built on the 30-acre plot, but when he died in 1841, Mount Alban was sold. When Phoebe died in 1850 at the age of 23, she left a small box containing $40 in gold that she earned from sale of her needlework. She left instructions that the money was for starting a fund to build a church on Mount Alban. Ground was broken for the church on the first anniversary of Phoebe’s death, and St. Alban’s opened its doors to worshippers on April 30, 1854. A tiny wooden structure with benches for the congregation, St. Alban’s had one bell, painted glass windows, and an altar of black walnut.
From that humble beginning, St. Alban’s has grown in its breadth of vision; the spirituality of extraordinary leadership; and its impact on the local community, the city and the wider world. From its earliest days, St. Alban’s reached out to the surrounding neighborhoods, attracting new members for a growing congregation. The parish established missions—St. Columba’s and St. George’s in 1875, St. David’s in 1901, and All Souls and St. Patrick’s in 1911—four of which are now thriving, independent churches. St. Alban’s soon became a major urban parish.
Today, St. Alban’s is moving forward with an energetic faith. Following our 150-year tradition, we continue to serve the needs of the city. We forge relationships with other churches to respond to these needs, building and sustaining organizations like the Community Council for the Homeless at Friendship Place, Samaritan Ministry of Greater Washington, and the Transitional Housing Corporation. Our members are empowered for Christian ministry. The parish’s involvement with the Episcopal Diocese of Washington provides leadership on many diocesan committees. We contribute generously to the diocese, and participate in regional assembly meetings and the annual diocesan convention.
St. Alban’s buildings are old and venerable. The church is a stately, stone-encased wooden edifice of gothic design, with an interior bathed in sunlight filtered by richly colored stained glass windows. Major renovations in 2006–2007 opened up the narthex, updated and expanded Nourse Hall, and added new lavatories, stairs and an elevator.Nourse Hall, which adjoins the church, has meeting space for 200, choir rehearsal space, and a number of other smaller rooms. Satterlee Hall sits across from the church and has meeting space for 300, a large production-style kitchen, offices, smaller meeting rooms and a library. It houses the Opportunity Shop and classrooms for the church school and the St. Alban’s Early Childhood Center. The Warner Memorial Rectory, also across from the church, is a three-bedroom house now used for adult and youth education, meetings and fellowship functions.
St. Alban’s Parish in Washington, DC, is beautifully sited in front of the Washington National Cathedral. It stands at a major crossroads of the vibrant social, ethnic and racial mix that is our nation’s capital. With a rich history reaching back over 150 years, we are blessed with a strong parish family—strong in our faith, strong in our caring, and strong in our desire for good stewardship. From the most active members to drop-in visitors, St. Alban’s welcomes all.
To learn more about the history of St. Alban’s, see Church at the Crossroads: A History of St. Alban’s Parish, Washington, D.C. 1854 –2004 by Ruth Harwood Cline, Ph.D., Posterity Press