The cornerstone of our current church building was laid on May 23, 1866. During the ensuing years many changes and additions have been made to the interior, but the Gothic style exterior remains the same. The tall, beautiful stained glass windows, installed from the late 1880s through the 1960s, are memorials to beloved parishioners. For nearly a century and a half, the towering spire and cross have been Painesville landmarks.
St. James Parish was organized and admitted to the Ohio Diocesan Convention of the Episcopal Church in 1824. The congregation met in homes and stores until 1836 when a small frame building with a modest bell tower was constructed on a lot at the northwest corner of Phelps and State Streets, the present location. That building was deconsecrated and moved to Perry in 1865 when construction of the current building began.
In 1872 the Ladies Aid Society raised the funds to build a rectory on the lot to the north of the church. It served as the rector’s home until the late 1970s. For about a decade it subsequently served as Forbes House, a ministry for abused women. In the early 1990s it was leveled to provide additional parking.
In 1887 the Victorian Gothic style chapel was constructed, with funds supplied solely by Laura Kerr Axtell. It has been renovated several times, most recently in the 1980s. Originally built as a worship space for the children of the parish, it is now used for Sunday services during the summer since it is air-conditioned.
In 1958 the education wing, which houses offices, the parish library, nursery, Guild Room, and Sunday School classrooms was constructed to accommodate the growing congregation. The exterior was designed to blend smoothly with the architectural style of the church.
The history of a parish church is also the history of its people. There are countless memorials to faithful church members and rectors of St. James throughout the building and grounds.