THE CHURCH BUILDING
In 1835 when the settlement of Sycamore was just beginning, the first Episcopal Bishop of Illinois was elected. He was the Rt. Rev. Philander Chase who as a horseback circuit rider had established a church in Batavia. When a Mrs. Ketchum and her family arrived in Sycamore, she wanted her child baptized in the Episcopal Church. Therefore, the priest at Batavia, the Rev. Julius H. Waterbury, came to Sycamore in 1855 to hold services and to baptize Mrs. Ketchum’s son. St. Peter’s parish was founded in October of that year.
The present church building is constructed of Batavia limestone and was completed in the autumn of 1878, solely at the expense of one man, James S. Waterman. The church was consecrated on January 31, 1879. Apart from carpeting, painting and decorating, the furnishings are nearly all original and tell of Sycamore’s early history. The congregation has taken great care over the years to retain the building’s architectural integrity. The architect was George O. Garnsey of Chicago. The style of architecture is English Gothic. The church was designed to imitate the “private chapels of the English nobility.”
The box-shaped pews are made of black walnut and are original, having been constructed by Isaac W. Johnson, the first Senior Warden of the parish. Mr. Johnson owned and operated a cabinet factory in Sycamore.
The Stations of the Cross were a gift to the parish from St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Sycamore. They are carved wood from northern Italy.
The pipe organ is relatively new in comparison to the age of the building; it was installed and consecrated in 1979. For the size of the community and the parish, it is an excellent instrument.
The painting of the Madonna and Child above the choir is thought to be Spanish of the school of Bartolome Esteban Murillo. It is believed that the painting dates from about the year 1800. It was brought to St. Peter’s when the McLaren Center was demolished in 1967.
The white marble altar is a memorial to Abbie L. Waterman. The symbols on the front are the Greek Alpha and Omega which symbolize the Beginning and the End. The center panel contains the letters IHS, which is a Greek monogram for the name of Jesus. On the left of the altar the Sacrament is reserved in a hanging Pyx-style tabernacle, one of the few such tabernacles in the United States. The altar cross dates from 1882.
The brass mural tablet above the organ console is a memorial to James Waterman. James S. (1820-1883) and Abbie L. (1829-1888) Waterman were the principal benefactors of St. Peter’s parish. Their portraits, which originally hung in their home, can now be found in Waterman Hall. James was one of the first merchants in Sycamore and the first banker in DeKalb County. Mrs. Waterman was a cultural and community leader for many years. The Watermans owned a large tract of land and from this property the church became a major beneficiary.
The pulpit is in memory of the Reverend Frank H. Weichlein (1875-1956) who served as Rector of St. Peter’s for a total of seventeen years (1922-24 and 1935-50). This has been the longest term of service in the parish’s history.
The brass mural tablet on the south wall is a memorial to Mary H.C. Paullin (1833-1882), the wife of Brigadier General Frederick W. Partridge. Mr. Partridge was a soldier, lawyer, and member of the diplomatic corps attached to the American legation to the Court of Siam in the 1860s.
The bell tower is placed diagonally at the southwest corner, a typical feature of Mr. Garnsey’s buildings. Doors open into the belfry from a Gothic archway above which are lancet windows. In the bell tower room stands the original baptismal font that was presented to the parish in 1857 by a Mr. Bowman of New York City. The bell, which was cast at Meneely & Kimberly Founders in Troy, New York, rings to announce Sunday services and is original. At the conclusion of a funeral the bell is tolled for the number of years the deceased lived. At a marriage ceremony the bell is pealed joyfully to share the happiness of the occasion.