St. Paul's Episcopal Church is located in the historic region of western New York state. Home to the Seneca nation from earliest times, and settled by Europeans in the late eighteenth century, the area around Mayville was home to farmers and tradesmen who helped supply the commercial traffic between Chautauqua Lake and Lake Erie, it being situated along an important portage route. Later a major ice industry developed with Chautauqua Lake the principal supplier of ice for homes and businesses.
The natural beauty of the region gradually attracted summer visitors, who found relief from the heat of the eastern cities on the shores of a still pristine waterway. In 1874 the Chautauqua Institution was established as a renowned religious and cultural center. St. Paul's has maintained a privileged connection with the Institution through its oversight, since 1894, of the (Episcopal) Chapel of the Good Shepherd on the Institution grounds. Moreover, throughout the years, St. Paul's was the place of worship for many of the most influential "founding families" of the region, whose names still can be observed on street signs and geographic points of interest around the lake.
St. Paul's Buildings
First established as a parish in 1823, St. Paul's has known three buildings at three different locations in its history. The third structure was built in 1902, following a fire that destroyed the church and much of Mayville's business district. The current church building is unique for its fortress-like style architecture, popular at the turn of the nineteenth century, the aim of which was to remind the faithful that the Church is a bulwark and protection against the assaults of the world. The bell tower especially captures this spirit in its resemblance to a castle battlement.
The nave of St. Paul's evokes another important Christian theme, that of the Church as a ship navigating dangerous waters. The walls are slightly turned in, so that, along with exposed beam ceiling, one gets the impression of a ship's hold. The inside is further enhanced by many windows of exquisitely beautiful stained glass, some of them over a century old.
With its unique architectural style and handsome grounds, and its deep religious and social roots in an historic region, St. Paul's Episcopal Church remains a prominent point of significance both for those who live here and those who visit this "land between the lakes".