St. Paul’s On-The-Hill had a steep uphill climb to reach its home high atop Ganung Drive in Ossining since its founding in the 1830s.
The Episcopal church was founded some two miles south from where it presently sits, on what became known as St. Paul’s Place in the Village of Ossining. The gothic revival structure, made from marble cut from the Sing Sing prison quarry, was consecrated in 1834.
The parish experienced bitter divisions following the Civil War, which led to a breakaway group, led by returning Civil War veterans, who founded Trinity Church in 1868, according to the parish website. Trinity Church’s building on South Highland Avenue dates from 1891.
Over the years, St. Paul’s and Trinity healed their wounds and merged in 2021 to become Grace Episcopal Church.
“We acknowledge that our prior history is stained by the practice of slavery, which resulted in enslaved people working as laborers on farms in the area,” reads a statement on the Grace Episcopal website. “We pledge ourselves to the amelioration of the individual and systemic wrongs that those actions created and sustain up to the present time. … We realize that we are not our past, but we acknowledge our past so we can move forward.”
In the 1950s, St. Paul’s sought a new home to expand its office space and Sunday school, according to a November 1955 press clipping in the collection of the nearby Ossining Historical Society Museum.
The congregation acquired the former estate of linen merchant Peter Donald on Torbank Hill, converting a barn and outbuildings at 40 Ganung Drive and adding “On-The-Hill” to its name.
The four rooms in the sacristy wing were originally used for stalling cows, with their feed coming down chutes from what later became the choir loft, according to a pamphlet recounting the church’s early days. The stable and milking rooms were converted into the church and auxiliary rooms.
“There were cows in the sacristy, horses in the nave, carriages in the crossing, hay in the parish hall, automobiles in the Lantern Shop, and sheeps, pigs and chickens in the classrooms!” exclaims the pamphlet.
The new church was dedicated in May 1961 on Pinkster, an African American and Dutch springtime holiday.
Tucked away in a tidy residential neighborhood, it’s not hard for a visitor to miss the driveway that leads to the brick arch entryway to St. Paul’s On-The-Hill. A small white sign near the mailbox gives only a hint of the journey that led to its home.
The street itself has historic roots. It likely draws its name from Leroy Ganung, a corporal in the Army’s 106th Infantry who died Sept. 29, 1918, from wounds received in action during World War I, according to Ossining Historical Society Museum records. Ganung was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
The historic church building on St. Paul’s Place is now home to Calvary Baptist Church.