History of Calvary Episcopal Church

Calvary Episcopal Church began in a small, frame schoolhouse on the eastern side of Clifton Avenue. The first services were held in 1844. Four years later, a frame church was built at the northwest corner of Clifton and Lafayette Avenue and was named The Clifton Chapel. Services were held at this location for the next twenty years. The Rt. Reverend Charles P. McIlvaine, who had moved to Cincinnati and settled in Clifton, was among the clergy who officiated at the Clifton Chapel.

The Calvary Church of Clifton was formed in 1856 by the townspeople of the Village of Clifton and the first rector, the Reverend William F. Lloyd was called that same year. The church was incorporated in 1863 according to the statutes of the State of Ohio. A resolution was passed, in 1868, to build the present church on a one acre lot that was purchased from William Resor, Sr. for three thousand dollars. The first building committee chairman was Henry Probasco. Construction cost was approximately $88,300. The construction began in 1866 and was completed in 1867. The church was consecrated by Bishop McIlvaine in 1868. The sale of the pews was one method used to help raise building funds. William Tinsley was the architect and artist Francis Pedretti frescoed the interior of the sanctuary.

The architectural style of the church was complementary to the mansions of the neighborhood. The tower and bell were donated by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Probasco in memory of their brother, Tyler Davidson. The original organ was installed in 1871, replacing a melodeon that had been used until that time. Electric lights were first installed in 1905.

The present stone rectory was completed in 1913 at a cost of thirty thousand dollars. Plans were made, in the fall of 1924, for a new parish house which was completed in 1926. A new organ, built by the E. M. Skinner Organ Company, was installed in 1925 and dedicated in 1928. Completion of the Children's Chapel, located in the south transept, funded by a gift from Miss Olivia Bell, was completed in 1937.

Memorials graciously donated through the years, have helped Calvary to earn the reputation of being one of the most beautiful churches in the city of Cincinnati. One such donation is the five beautiful blue windows on the west side of the nave. These windows represent five female saints and were donated in memory of some of Calvary's "most devoted women." Seventeen permanent rectors have served Calvary Church since its inception with ten changes in Diocesan leadership. Twenty-four senior wardens and twenty-seven junior wardens have served (to date) since 1856.

A succession of assistant rectors have served Calvary as well, since the mid-twentieth century. All of these people generously gave their time and talents to provide the leadership that has brought Calvary into her second one-hundred years. The National Register of Historic Places accepted Calvary Episcopal Church as part of the Clifton Avenue Historic District in January 1979. Its history and significance are detailed on the nomination form of the National Register.