TRINITY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, the first Episcopal parish in Toledo, began in early 1837 when Toledo was a newly incorporated city of around 2,000 people. Early services were held in private homes, a courtroom, and a schoolhouse. Trinity was chartered in February 1842, and later that year members elected the first vestry. Toledo’s well-deserved reputation for mud, mosquitoes and malaria made it difficult for early vestries to secure clergy leadership. From 1842 to 1848, thirteen priests were called, but only six came and only one stayed for more than a year. But in March 1848, the Rev. Henry Walbridge accepted the job of rector and remained at Trinity for the next twenty years.

In 1844, Trinity paid one dollar to acquire the property at the corner of Adams and St. Clair Streets from the American Land Company. In 1845 the first building was completed, a simple white clapboard structure in the style of a New England church, and Trinity Episcopal Church has stood in the heart of downtown Toledo ever since. To meet the needs of the growing congregation, the current modified Gothic stone building was built in 1863-1866. It is one of the oldest structures in continuous use in downtown Toledo, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

St. Clair & Adams Streets (aerial view), ca. early 20th century, courtesy of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, obtained from http://images2.toledolibrary.org

Since its beginnings, the Trinity congregation has been involved in serving the city. In the 1850s, each of Toledo’s three fire stations held a key to the church building so that firefighters could use Trinity’s church bells to sound fire alarms across the tiny city. From the Civil War through World War I, Trinity assisted in the founding of nine Episcopal mission congregations in and around Toledo. While some of these remain open, others have closed. One of them, St. Mark’s, closed in 2012 and many of its members have found a home at Trinity.

In 1903, the congregation invited the Greek Orthodox community to use Trinity’s chapel for worship during the construction of its own church building a few blocks away. In 1922, a lunchroom known as the Brown Bag Room was opened to offer a convenient space for women working downtown to enjoy their midday break. The Next to New thrift shop on the basement level of Trinity has been serving downtown shoppers since 1957. A large, long-standing AA group meets every weekday at Trinity. My Brother’s Place, a restaurant and downtown “third place” located on Trinity’s second floor, opened in 1976 and closed for the final time in 2011. Leadership Toledo has been growing community leaders at Trinity since 1980.

More recently, the building has been shared by ministry partners including Food for Thought, Equality Ohio, and Social Services for the Arab Community. Trinity members have been actively involved in many social service and justice organizations and events, from the Komen Race for the Cure and dragon boat racing for Partners in Education to the LGBT community’s Toledo Pride event and a spelling bee benefiting Read for Literacy. Trinity remains a vibrant home for mission and ministry in downtown Toledo.