A Short History of St. Peter's

On June 12, 1904, Daniel H. Sleem, a physician, offered his home for the first Episcopal services in the newly established town of Seward. The celebrant was the Rev. Frederick Taylor, visiting from Valdez where he was priest-in-charge of Church of the Epiphany.

For the next few years, services were held in a variety of places, including a tent church and the Alaska Northern Railroad depot. During the winter of 1905-06, construction began on a permanent church building, and on April 1, 1906, Bishop Peter Trimble Rowe made his first visit to Seward, performing baptisms and confirmations. Once the church was completed, a Sunday school and a women's auxiliary were organized. The rectory was built adjacent to the church in 1917-18. The Women's Guild was organized in 1922.

In 1925, Jan Van Emple, a noted Dutch artist living in Seward, was commissioned to paint a reredos. The $650 cost was raised by popular subscription. This unique work depicts the Ascension as well as the Resurrection of our Lord. The empty tomb is shown against the background of Resurrection Bay. Instead of apostles, the painting includes people of Alaska--Indian, Eskimo, trapper, prospector (a self-portrait of Van Emple), and homesteader, underscoring the Church's teaching to "preach peace to them that are far off and to them that are nigh." The angels on either side of the Lord are portraits of Van Emple's two sisters.

St. Peter's has consistently provided a strong ministry in a town whose fortunes have fluctuated with the tides of trade, railroad development, and shipping. While the church and parish hall have been remodeled several times, the original church structure is little changed. St. Peter's is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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