The first public service of the Episcopal Church in Covington was held on Sunday evening, May 8, 1842, with the Right Reverend Benjamin Bosworth Smith, D.D., first Bishop of the Diocese of Kentucky, officiating. This service, and those on several succeeding Sundays, took place in a temporary meeting house, a small frame building on the northwest corner of Fifth and Madison. The Bishop had received several letters from Doctor Thomas Bird, a young man of thirty who had come to Covington from England, "calling attention to Covington as a suitable place for commencing exertions in behalf of the Episcopal Church."
On November 24, 1842, the congregation moved to a third-floor room in a brick building on the south side of Market Place (now Park Place), and these resolutions were adopted:
- "RESOLVED, That a parish to be called Trinity Church, Covington, be organized;
- "RESOLVED, That John K. McNickle, Charles A. Withers, George M. Southgate, John W. Stevenson, J.W. Venable, J.L. Newby, Jackson Sparrow, J.W. Clayton and Thomas Bird be appointed vestrymen of said parish, to serve until Easter Monday or until their successors be appointed, of whom George M. Southgate shall be senior warden and Jack Sparrow junior warden.
- "RESOLVED, That we hereby express our approbation of, and consent to the doctrines, discipline, and worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, and to the constitution and canons of the General Convention, and also that George M. Southgate and Thomas Bird be a committee to submit a copy of these proceedings at the next convention of the Diocese, to be held in Lexington on the second Thursday of May, 1843, for their approval, and then and there apply for admission of this Parish into union with the said constitution."
At a meeting held on December 16, 1842, it was decided to erect a church building. A building committee was appointed, and the lot on which the nave of the present church stands was purchased from Mr. Jefferson Phelps for three hundred and fifty dollars.
The cornerstone of this first small church was laid on June 24, 1843, and the first divine service was held on June 30, 1844. There were numerous delays affecting construction so that the sixteenth annual convention of the Diocese, which was to have been held in the new church, was transferred to St. Paul's Louisville.
The period following the opening service was one of constant financial struggle, and the church was without a Rector part of the time. It was at this time of great stress that Dr. Thomas Bird, who, more than any other individual, was responsible for the founding of Trinity Church, and who worked ceaselessly for almost fifty years to keep it alive, mortgaged his own home at Seventh and Greenup Streets to save the church from a sheriff's sale. A tablet to his memory was placed in the south wall of the nave by the members of the Sunday School in 1892, the Fiftieth Anniversary of the founding of the Parish.
By 1859 a new and larger church, the second church, was being planned. More ground to the east and the south of the church was purchased. The second church was an entirely new brick building and "everything was thoroughly up-to-date."
On March 1, 1860, the church, being free of all debt, was consecrated by Bishop Smith, and on March 9th the state legislature was asked to amend the Charter, vesting title to the church property in the Wardens and Vestry and their annually elected successors, instead of in "Trustees elected for an indefinite time." This was approved by the legislature February 18, 1861.
Until the Rectorate of the Reverend C. George Currie, who came to Trinity on September 23, 1860, and remained for over seven years, the church had had many rectors for short periods. Under his leadership, despite national and local troubles, the parish attained new prosperity. Additions to the new church were made in the amount of seventy-five hundred dollars; an assistant was hired; the Chapel of the Redeemer at Ludlow was organized; a new organ was purchased for thirty-five hundred dollars; and the Episcopate assessment was four hundred dollars.
In 1871, while the Reverend Issac Gibson was Rector, bonds were sold to provide for remodeling and extending the seating capacity of the church. This, the third church, was greatly enlarged and improved during the summer. The work was completed in time for Christmas services, and the church was in debt again, ten thousand dollars. A fire seriously damaged the church on January 30, 1872, but the loss was partially covered by insurance, and during repairs services were held in the Odd Fellows Hall.
July 1886 saw the acceptance of plans and beginning of work on a Parish, or Guild, House. These many improvements and additions to the church building were made during the Rectorate of the Reverend Frank Woods Baker and his Assistant, the Reverend Walter Baker, D.D., his brother. Several clubs were organized -- among them the Knights of the White Cross, the Good Samaritan Dispensary, and the Culture Club.
On Thanksgiving Day, 1888, alterations to the church, which is our present church, including extending the front of the Nave twenty-five feet to the sidewalk, and the addition of the bell tower and the round Bapistry, were completed. At this time there were four hundred sixty communicants.
Also, at this time St. John's Chapel at Eighteenth and Scott Streets was erected, and about eighty-five members of Trinity's congregation attended church there as a place of worship more convenient to their new "uptown" homes. However, growth in the Parish continued, and on November 25, 1892, the Parish's Fiftieth Anniversary, a reception was held with the Parish Aid taking charge and preparing for five hundred guests. Again in 1890, the church was redecorated and modernized. Electricity was installed and screens were placed on the windows.
St. John's Mission was separated from Trinity on January 30, 1894, when it became St. John's Church, Covington, Kentucky. In the early 1920s St. John's Covington and Trinity merged into Trinity Church, Covington.
The Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the founding of Trinity Parish was celebrated on Saturday and Sunday, November 24 and 25, 1917, with a service and reception on Saturday and two services on Sunday. The Reverend James M. Magruder, a former Rector, returned as guest speaker for the occasion, and a twenty-four page booklet, Annals of Trinity Parish, was prepared by Miss Kate Scudder.
During the summer of 1927 the church was repaired and improved, and in November of that year an electric blower for the organ was used for the first time. The Vestry sent a letter of thanks to Hannibal Mosher for his many years of faithful service as organ pumper. Hannibal Mosher was perhaps the first black communicant of Trinity Church. As a child he was adopted by the Mosher family, and as one of the church's devoted members he assisted in every service at the church for many years.
The devastating flood of the spring of 1937 brought waters into the lower structure of the Church buildings. The clean-up and repairs were a very expensive necessity at a time when the financial status was far from good. Unpaid obligations were estimated to be one-fifth of the 1937 annual budget.
In 1953, a strong, spring wind dislodged much of the remaining sheet metal work of the ornate rail capping the bell tower. The original small spire, having deteriorated, had been removed several years earlier. The present metal finials and curb were devised by George Roth to "temporarily" retain something of the original Gothic character.
A mission at Florence, Boone County, Kentucky, was formed and in the annual convention in 1957, this parish become Grace Church, an independent mission. In 1964 the deed of ownership was transferred to Grace Episcopal Church on the tenth anniversary of the founding of the mission.
In early 1958 plans for expanding Trinity's church buildings and for a new Parish House moved steadily forward. The new Parish House and the accompanying additions and renovations were completed by 1960, and the added facilities were immediately placed in use with extended programs in Christian Education and Outreach to community services.
Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, Trinity contains a number of important works of art, including stained glass windows designed by the John Riordan Studio of Cincinnati as well as the St. Michael Archangel window created by the Louis Tiffany studio of New York. The Church was commended for extensive preservation work which included a restoration of a large area of slate roof surfaces and new copper flashing. Elaborate hand-carved furnishings and wall panels created in the 1800s by talented parishioner Kate Mosher and other women of Trinity enhance the chancel and altar. Thus, Trinity Church reflects the influence of the American Arts and Crafts Movement of the late nineteenth century.
Today Trinity remains committed not only to preservation and history, but also to a downtown ministry. Over the years, Trinity has initiated and helped to establish a number of community programs and institutions, such as an industrial arts school in 1903; the local Mental Health Association in 1953; Northern Kentucky Senior Citizens Center in 1970; and Covington Community Center, now the Center for Great Neighborhoods, in 1971.
Currently, the parish provides space and volunteers for Northern Kentucky Reading Camp, a free day camp and remedial reading program sponsored by Northern Kentucky’s four Episcopal churches; participates in “Adopt-a-Family,” a program to help the needy founded by parishioner Katherine Terwort; and offers Midday Musical Menu, a series of free monthly concerts under the direction of Dr. John Deaver, Trinity’s director of music. Other programs enjoyed by the local community include the annual rummage sale and spring garden mart. Trinity’s beautifully maintained gardens provide an oasis in the inner city enjoyed by office workers and other visitors drawn to its aura of serenity.