St. Mark’s parish traces its history to Geneva’s first settlers, Charity and James Herrington. During the 1830s, the first Episcopal services were held in their log cabin near what is now the corner of First and State Streets in Geneva. In 1844, an Episcopal parochial organization was formed in Geneva. Services were held in the old courthouse, site of the old Kane County Courthouse. This parish was the forerunner of St. Mark’s Church.
St. Mark’s was designed at the height of the Gothic Revival architecture’s popularity. The church represents one of the purest expressions of the form to be found in Geneva. Standing outside, your attention is drawn to the handsome three-tiered medieval tower at the entrance to the church. At the top is the belfry. There hangs the same bell, cast in England, which has called families to worship at St. Mark’s since it first opened its doors. The steeply pitched roof is characteristic of Gothic Revival. Complementing it are long, narrow windows, which are divided into two lancet shapes by mullions (the vertical strips dividing the panes). Hood moldings made of limestone cap the windows as well as the entry. The church is built of the local, inexpensive riverstone that was used so frequently in Geneva buildings of the era. To the south of the church is St. Mark’s Memorial Garden, a lovely place for rest and meditation. The bronze plaque to the right of the entrance was awarded the building by the Geneva Historical Society.
As you enter St. Mark’s you are struck by the picturesque quality of the interior. There is an uplifting feeling of lightness and space in spite of the limitations of size. The high rib vaulting and pointed arches lead one always forward and upward. The focal point, emphasized by the arches, is the beautifully carved wood altar or Holy Table. The mural depicting the Ascension behind the altar was painted in 1920 by an unknown artist. A gold dossal cloth covers part of the painting. Behind the altar originally was a large stained glass window depicting a winged lion with a cross, the symbol of St. Mark for whom the church was named. The window was removed when an addition housing classrooms and offices was constructed on the east side of the church in 1955. The windows of the church are a combination of glass-working styles incorporated into a total design. The majority of the glass is done in grisaille—a traditional window-making style found in many northern European Gothic churches. (Unlike stained glass, the delicately painted and leaded grisaille glass allows a maximum of light to enter the building.)
St. Mark’s Today
The caring and hospitable spirit of Charity and James Herrington continues to the present day. In 1986 St. Mark’s parish, wishing to share their community of faith with a larger number, completed a plan to build a beautiful new worship and fellowship area. In 2001, a new fellowship hall/great room, additional Sunday school classrooms, a choral rehearsal room, and updated office areas were added to the facility. This new space has enabled St. Mark’s to grow as a parish family and has provided the opportunity for many exciting new ministries. Every week services are held in both the main church, which seats 350, and the historic structure now called the chapel. Our present rector is the twenty-seventh priest to tend this expanding congregation.