St. Mark’s has a rich history dating back to October 6, 1836, when it was incorporated as an Episcopal parish in Grand Rapids, Michigan. At that time, Grand Rapids had only 500 inhabitants. In the spring of 1840, measures were taken to construct a suitable building. A parcel of land was donated at the corner now known as Division and Pearl streets. The present building was occupied in October 1848 and was consecrated on September 9, 1849. It is the oldest public building still standing in the city. Its features include walls made with stone quarried from the Grand River and the original, hand carved woodwork that is found throughout the interior.
The original church was just a portion of today’s sanctuary: a rectangle that included the nave and sanctuary and choir/organ gallery. There was no choir as we know it today, and the organist, and any vocalists used the balcony. In 1872, the transepts (the areas of the sanctuary that stretch north-south today) and chancel (altar area and choir stalls) were added to accommodate larger numbers, the addition of a permanent organ, and a more formal choir. Since then, it has undergone many additions and revisions including towers, current transepts, and a recessed chancel. The most recent major renovation was completed in 2003, with installation of a new pipe organ in late 2004. St. Mark’s architectural style is Gothic Revival in a design that reflects old Trinity Church in New York City.
From 1906 to 1970, St. Mark’s served as the Cathedral of the Diocese of Western Michigan until a new cathedral was built and diocesan offices moved to Kalamazoo. Christ the King Cathedral was sold in 2007 and St. Mark’s again serves as the central, leadership congregation for the diocese, hosting many regional meetings and the diocesan Convention.
St. Mark’s has an outstanding legacy regarding the growth of Grand Rapids, with more than a dozen mayors being members of the church. Other milestones include the creation of St. Mark’s Home and Hospital, now known as Spectrum Health – Butterworth; the founding of St. Mark’s College, the beginning of higher education in our region; and the founding of four more Episcopal congregations in the area.