The design of the architect included a tower which, at the building of the church, was carried to the height of fifty-six feet and, at that point, provided with a temporary roof. The tower as originally sketched was massive but severely plain. It was hardly in accord with the architecture of the body of the edifice, and evidently its design was controlled by considerations of expense. In 1876 this truncated tower was completed as a memorial to Mr. John Tweddle by his wife and children, Mrs. Joseph Wilbur Tillinghast and Miss Anna Eliza Tweddle. It was designed by Richard M. Upjohn and constructed by Messrs. Ellin & Company of New York. At the benediction of the tower, the vestry placed in the Tower-Room a tablet which bears the following inscription:
This Tower from the
eave of the Nave was built in the
year of Our Lord 1876.
To the Glory of God
and in memory of his faithful servant
Sometime Warden of this Parish.
He entered into Rest, March
9th, 1875 and, by the bounty
of his Wife and Children,
his Monument completes
and adorns the Sanctuary
“And Jacob set up a pillar in
the place where He talked
with him; even a pillar of stone.”
Gen. xxxv. 14.
This Tablet was erected by the Rector and
Congregation of St. Peter’s Church, at the
Dedication of the Tower on the Festival of
St. Michael and All Angels, A. D. 1876.
The completed tower is one of the most elaborate and impressive examples of the decorated French Gothic on the continent. The total height from base to cross is one hundred and eighty feet. Its French character is strongly accentuated, and its decorative details are much richer and more striking. From the ground to the height of about seventy-five feet, the massive shaft is treated with extreme simplicity, the blue stone ashler being relieved by occasional bands and small windows encased in brown sandstone. At the height of seventy-five feet, a series of deeply recessed arches nine feet in height encircles the entire tower.
Above this decorated girdle in brown stone is the belfry, thirty feet in height. Each of its four faces is pierced with three lancet windows, separated by richly molded shafts and crowned by arches whose moldings rest on sculptured heads. This group of lofty lancets, with their elaborate treatment of shaft and capital and arch, is the most important and beautiful feature of the tower.
The belfry is surmounted by a heavily molded parapet about eight feet in height, pierced with arched openings and resting upon a broad band of foliage carved with great vigor and boldness, which girdles the tower and from which, at each of the three exposed angles, projects a huge gargoyle. These gargoyles stretch out their winged, griffin-like forms and tiger-like heads to the north, east and west, projecting about eight feet beyond the body of the tower. They constitute the largest stones used in its construction, the weight of each gargoyle being three tons. The bat-like wings are folded back and ingeniously conceal the massive butt of stone set in the walls to counterbalance the projecting body of the sculptured monster.
These gargoyles, which in general outline resemble those on St. Stephen’s Church, Vienna, reproduce one of the most remarkable traits of Mediaeval Gothic: the fantastic and grotesque element which lay close to, and was interblended with, its exquisite expressions of aspiration and prayer. They represent the bestial and demoniac forces which haunt the soul and assail its higher life.
The meaning of the gargoyles which project over the belfry of St. Peter’s also interprets the fantastic animal forms and the grotesque human faces which decorate the salient points in the upper stages of the tower. These sculptures show great imaginative force and artistic skill and, while one can get their full value only as he climbs the spiral stairway to the roof of the tower, they give to the structure from even distant points of view, richness and picturesque interest. At each angle of the parapet and directly over the gargoyles rises a square turret. On the main angle, on the corner of the street, the staircase octagon is continued sixty feet above the roof of the tower and is surmounted by a stone spire of exceeding gracefulness, which ends with a massive finial, bearing in gilded iron the double cross of Holland.
By the generosity of George Tweddle, the belfry was equipped with a chime of eleven bells, which were cast in the foundry of Meneely & Kimberly of Troy, N.Y. The bells are perfectly attuned, and their combined weight is six tons. The following is a statement of the tones, weights, and inscriptions of the bells composing the chime.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. They shall prosper that love Thee.”
“Gloria in Excelsis Deo.”
This chime of bells was given to St. Peter’s
Church, Albany, N.Y., by George Tweddle,
Christmas, 1875, in memory of his father
and mother, John and Sarah Tweddle.
Mrs. Sarah Tweddle.
“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.”
“To tell of Thy loving kindness early in the morning, and of Thy truth in the night season.”
Mrs. Mary Tweddle.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
G. Robert Tweddle.
“Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.”
“J. Boyd Tweddle.
“Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth.”
H. Arnold Tweddle.
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.”
George Tweddle, Jr.
“Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy.”
Mary F. Tweddle
“Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God.”
Rev. Walton W. Battershall, Rector of St. Peter’s.
“Blessed are the peace-makers; for they shall be called the children of God.”
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Sharing the belfry with the Chime, but not forming part of it, is the bell which swung in the steeple of the first St. Peter’s Church and summoned to divine service the garrison of the fort, the people of the little frontier city, and the Indians encamped outside the “palisadoes,” who had come out of the forest to barter or to brighten the links of the “Covenant Chain” between the Province and the six tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy. This bell was the first in Albany to ring out America's independence from Great Britain. It bears in raised characters the following inscription:
St. Peter’s Church, Albany, 1751. Minister J. Ogilvie.
J. Stevenson, E. Collins, Church Wardens.
Its thin voice, somewhat cracked, strikes the numerals of the new year in the midnight chimes on New Year’s Eve.
The columbarium is located in the Tower Room to the right of the entrance to St. Peter's Church. If you would like to reserve a space in the columbarium, please contact the church office.