This dapper Gilded-Age gentleman was St. Stephen’s much-respected rector, a scholar who made controversial subjects approachable and electrified the church. See more!

Formal SS rector portrait Rev. S McConnell .jpeg

Today, the day he died in 1939, we consider The Rev. Dr. Samuel D. McConnell, St. Stephen’s fourth rector from 1882 to 1896. This startlingly fashion-conscious man of his time was a renowned scholar who published extensively and drew crowds with sermons that respectfully probed contested subjects. His approach reportedly comforted many who were troubled by the issues. The congregation’s activities mushroomed, so he and the vestry commissioned the present three-story Parish House, designed by George C. Mason, to replace Frank Furness’ vestry room. As they also pondered electrifying the gas-lit sanctuary--an innovation--Dr. McConnell and the vestry took a first step by installing electrical fixtures to light a dramatic new mosaic mural of the Last Supper over the altar, by much-acclaimed modern English designers Henry and Kate Holiday. One London critic hooted at the church’s “modern” choice for “misunderstanding” the ancient, famously luminous medium.

-Suzanne Glover Lindsay, St. Stephen’s historian and curator