1897 - 1898, The "Stone" church
The population of Mechanicville in 1897 was about 2,000 and the village boundary lines ended at what is now Fourth Avenue on the west. Streets and roads were dirt and Park Avenue was know as "pudding street" because of the mud. A lift bridge carried Park Avenue traffic over the canal which ran through the village where Central Avenue is now. There were no permanent improvements, no street lights, sewers or water supply. Kerosene lamps lighted a few streets and a few had brick sidewalks. The towpath along the canal was a general meeting place for loafers and people with plenty of time on their hands. The business district of town was north of the church site on Main Street. From 1893-1895 a horse drawn transportation system operated between Mechanicville and Stillwater. In 1896 a trolley operated between the communities and in 1898 Waterford was included. Into this setting St. Luke's Stone Church was built.
The bequest of Dr. Newton Ballou was executed on July 9, 1895, two months prior to his unexpected demise on September 9, 1895. Under the laws of the State, for a legacy of this kind to be valid, it must be made at least two months prior to the donor's death; the requirement was met and the new church was built. Dr. Ballou had served as a surgeon for three years during the Civil War.
The church was designed by Gibson, the architect of All Saints Cathedral in Albany. A Stillwater stone mason, John Fidler, was engaged and August Waite, a master carpenter from Round Lake was hired as the builder. In March 1897 the trees behind the wood church were removed and the structure was moved out of the way onto leased land. Services continued in the wood church until the completion of the stone church. Construction began on April 10, when a steam derrick was installed to lift and place the stonework. By June the foundation was completed with Schenectady bluestone below the waterline. The cornerstone was laid July 6, 1897 during a thunderstorm. A copper box containing church archives was placed in the stone on the southwest corner of the bell tower.
The board construction fence was quickly plastered with gaudy circus posters which displeased not only the congregation but many others who felt the holy ground was being desecrated. They were quickly removed. Timbers from the recently burned Presbyterian church were used to fuel the hoisting engines of the derrick.
The great 3,000 pound bell, cast in the Menealy foundry, Troy, inscribed "Rev. Benjamin F. Hall D.D.", was swung into the tower in November, however three days later after being rung, an accident caused the bell to be sent back for recasting. The pews arrived from Michigan.
The church was indeed an impressive sight on September 18, 1897 when the stonework was completed. On December 4, 1897 regular church services were started in the basement and on March 13, 1898 moved upstairs to the church proper. Bishop William Doane consecrated the church on April 23, 1898 accompanied by a boy's choir and organ music. A baby boy, who in adulthood was to become a noted physician, was the first to be baptized in the new church.
A plot of land behind the new church as purchased for the new rectory from Miss Ocie Howland, a descendant of John Howland who arrived on the Mayflower.
Rev. H.H. Johnston (1898-1900)