Grace Episcopal church was founded in 1855 by Dr. Josiah Harding, Mrs. Samuel Phillips Lee (sister of Montgomery Blair), and Mr. Oliver H. P. Clark. The church was consecrated in 1857. Montgomery Blair, Abraham Lincoln’s Postmaster General, and the person for whom Montgomery Blair High School is named, was a long-time communicant of Grace and served on the Vestry from 1869 until his death in 1883.
The church building currently in use is the third church structure to be located on this property. The first structure was wooden and sat on an acre of land donated by Thomas Noble Wilson. It was completed in 1857 and burned down in 1896. There is a story that General Jubal Early donated $100 to pay for the roof of the first structure when he noted it did not have one as he marched toward Fort Stevens in 1864. Seventeen Confederate soldiers who died in the Battle of Fort Stevens are buried in the Grace Church cemetery in one grave located at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Grace Church Road. Some say General Early gave the church $100 in payment for the burials of his soldiers.
The second structure, designed by architect Clarence L. Harding, was a brown-shingled church that faced Georgia Avenue It was completed in 1897. This church was too small for the number of families attending church in the early 1950’s, so in 1955 ground was broken for the current building, which was completed in 1956.
There are a number of local Episcopal churches that were started as missions of Grace Church: St. Mary’s, Aspen Hill; St. John’s, Norwood (located in Bethesda); Christ Church, Kensington; and a church in Takoma Park.
During its 155 year history, Grace Church has been a leading force in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. For those who wish to know about the complete history of the church, there are two books that contain all of the above information and much more: To Light the Way by Mildred Newbold Getty; and, To Grow in Grace by Orville C. Shirey and Bettie Lou Donley.
The Grace Episcopal Church Cemetery
In 1864, the Grace Episcopal Church Cemetery became the final resting place for several Confederate Soldiers who fought under the command of General Jubal Early. In 1896, a monument was erected on the church grounds to mark the site.