At the Diocesan Convention of 1855 a petition was granted to create a new parish in the village of Hampden. The first church building was erected that year in present day Roosevelt Park. In 1859 the city bought the land and created the Hampden Reservoir, displacing the church. The reservoir was filled in a hundred years later.
The Saint Mary’s episcopal congregation moved in 1860, one year before the Civil War began, to a few acres of land in north Hampden donated by Henry Mankin, a developer and landowner in the area. The parcel was later expanded in 1900 through a gift from local businessman Robert Poole. The churchyard extends from Roland Avenue down the hill to Hickory Avenue and is bounded to the north by 41st Street and to the south by Rectory Lane.
The second church, built on the new property, was made out of wood and subsequently burned down before 1873. Northern troops may have used the timber for firewood. A wooden fence that once surrounded the property was taken down piece by piece and used at a nearby Civil War soldier camp. The southern sympathizing Hampdenites were apparently treated with contempt by the Union battalions.
The third church building was built in 1873 and still stands today. The parish was decommissioned in 2002 and the building was turned into an outreach center for the Hampden community. In 1964 the congregation tore down its rectory, which stood just south of the 1873 church, and the Roland towers assisted living complex was erected. The chapel at the northern boundary of the parcel is still standing but is vacant. The building was previously occupied by a separate congregation.
The Victorian graveyard is one of a few remaining in the city that is still physically connected to the church of its origin. Founded around the same time as the episcopal parish, Saint Mary’s Cemetery has graves dating back to the late 19th Century. The park is open from from dawn until dusk and is worth visiting for the view alone. A tour of Hampden is not complete without a trip to Saint Mary’s.