Re: “Get past the Portland errors to a good story starring Joshua Chamberlain” (Sept. 6):

In his review of Matthew Langdon Cost’s novel, “Joshua Chamberlain and the Civil War: At Every Hazard,” William David Barry takes Cost to task for historical inaccuracies.

Barry quotes Cost: “When Chamberlain and his young tag-along … arrive in Portland in 1862, they go by ‘a massive church on Congress Avenue, St. Luke’s Episcopal.’ ”

Later, Barry writes: “Consider the series of flaws: Congress Street was never Congress Avenue. … Then there is the matter of St. Luke’s, which was not constructed until 1868, on State Street.”

We’re delighted to think that Joshua Chamberlain and his young friend might have stopped to admire the first St. Luke’s on Congress Street. The Cathedral Church of St. Luke, whose cornerstone was laid Aug. 15, 1867, was built and held its first service in a still-windowless cathedral on a chilly Christmas Eve in 1868.

However, in 1854, before the Episcopal Diocese moved its seat from Gardiner to Portland in 1866 and decided to build our beautiful cathedral on State Street, its first parishioners built St. Luke’s Episcopal Church at 669 Congress St., on the west side of what became Joe’s Smoke Shop, later enlarged. (There is a mural of this church on the east side of Joe’s.)

St. Luke’s original parish church was sold in 1866 to St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, as they’d lost their Pearl Street church to the Great Portland Fire on July 4, 1866, and so had brought property on Spring Street to build a new church.

So, in a fortuitous set of circumstances, St. Luke’s was able to sell their church building, and St. Stephen’s no longer needed to erect a new one.

St. Stephen’s on Congress Street closed in 1960 and was demolished in 1966. St. Luke’s is the oldest continuing Episcopal cathedral in the United States.

Nancy A. Mawhinney

parishioner, Cathedral Church of St. Luke


The Very Rev. Dr. Benjamin Shambaugh

dean, Cathedral Church of St. Luke