A Brief History of the Cathedral Church of St. Mark
The Episcopal Church was much a part of the frontier heritage of the Intermountain West, and Salt Lake City was a focal point for the church's role in the area's pioneer history. St. Mark's was the first permanent Protestant church to be established in the Salt Lake Valley.
Daniel S. Tuttle, a native of New York state, was elected by the Episcopal Church to be missionary bishop to the new territory of Montana with jurisdiction in areas that later became the states of Utah and Idaho. He arrived in Salt Lake City July 2, 1867 and began to build a congregation.
One of Bishop Tuttle's early concerns was for a building to house his growing congregation. Generous Episcopalians in New York and Pennsylvania, believing they could help fight polygamy in the region, made large contributions and on July 30, 1870, the cornerstone was laid for St. Mark's Cathedral. Blueprints for the building were donated by Richard Upjohn, founder of the American Institute of Architects and at that time the most distinguished designer of churches in America.
The simple, traditional design was based on the Bishop's desire to reflect the values and the spirit of frontier America. "The cathedral is to be developed along lines adapted to American ideas and adjusted to American habits," he admonished. The thick native red sandstone walls and heavy timber roof trusses reflect the determination of the designers and builders to achieve permanence in a frontier community. Listed on the National Register of Historic Sites, the cathedral still has that original simplicity and strength. The building is small for a cathedral, seating about 500 persons, but at the time of its construction would have held every Episcopalian in the territory.
On Nov. 15, 1870, St. Mark's Parish was formally organized, and services were held in the crypt of the unfinished building. The cathedral was consecrated on May 14, 1874. Bishop Tuttle noted, "When completed our church will have cost, I fear, $40,000. Alas! Alas!" Transepts were added over the years, and the chancel and sanctuary were completed in 1901.
The cathedral has survived moderate earthquakes, and in 1935 a serious fire gutted the sanctuary, destroying two beautiful stained glass windows over the altar. The restoration was completed with only minor modifications to the original design.
The construction and subsequent history of The Cathedral Church of St. Mark was, and continues to be, a visible demonstration that diverse religious beliefs can thrive in Utah. Though a minority in number, Episcopalians have always been instruments for social justice and care in this community. By 1880, members of the church had established St. Mark's School, Rowland Hall School, and St. Mark's Hospital, all evidence of the concern for people that was the cornerstone of Bishop Tuttle's ministry.
The grace of the cathedral is symbolized in the lives of the people who, for either a brief moment of prayer, or the ministry of a lifetime, have found it to be an oasis in the desert, a place of refreshment, encouragement and strength through Word and Sacraments.
After leaving Salt Lake City, Bishop Tuttle reminisced: "Prayers and tears and hopes and fears and sacred memories, as well as altar and walls and gifts and memorials, were consecrated in that noble building in the mountains, to which my heart turns even now in the deepest tenderness."