History of Church of the Incarnation

According to records, in 1860 or 1861, the first Episcopal service in Santa Rosa was held in the Old Academy Building. The next was held in the Court House, where the Rite of Baptism was performed. Until 1867, services were held only occasionally.

The Pacific Coast Mission was established in Benicia in 1867, and the mission took charge of Sonoma County and the adjacent areas in 1868. With this leadership, services were held more frequently.

Tour of the Stained Glass and Carvings in the Sanctuary

Mr. J. P. Clark donated four building lots on Fourth Street and Washington Street for the building of a church. These were sold and lots on Mendocino Avenue were purchased as a better location. Construction began in the Spring of 1872, and building was completed in 1873. It is said that the church was constructed from the wood of two redwood trees. The Church was declared debt free in 1876 and consecrated in November, 1877. The cost for church, furniture and equipment was $3,000.00!

In 1885, a larger church was needed, so the building was quartered, drawn apart, and enlarged to the size it was before expansion for the organ chamber in 1997.


Church and Rectory in 1909
Photo from The Sonoma Heritage Collection

The Church of the Incarnation was incorporated as a parish in June, 1895.

The church building experienced the earthquake of 1906, during which the sidewalls bulged out about eight inches off the foundation, but otherwise was undamaged. Following the earthquake, the church served as a morgue and the rectory as a hospital for the devastated city of Santa Rosa.

From 1943 until 1953, ten Sisters of the Transfiguration, an Episcopal order of nuns, were devoted workers in the parish. They served as Sunday School teachers, ran an excellent nursery day school and even filled in as organist at times.

Much of the carving in the church, including the altar, choir stalls, reredos and litany desk, was the work of two women of the parish –Augusta C. Collett and Anna Finlaw.

This is the oldest church structure in continuous use in Santa Rosa.