August 21: John Carnaan Harkness (1886)

In an 1884 pamphlet describing Washington D.C.’s prominent citizens, the following is said of John C. Harkness. “Mr. Harkness has always been in the front rank, and the many positions of trust held by him make him conspicuous in our history, and he is well known as one of Washington’s ablest architects and builders for the last half century.” It was to Harkness that Epiphany’s vestry turned when it came time to build their new church. That decision was mostly prompted by the fact that at $7220, he was the lowest out of five bids. The cornerstone for the new building was laid on August 14, 1843 and the first service was held on July 7, 1844. Although augmented and modified several times over the years, that original building forms the nucleus of Epiphany’s worship space today.

A native Washingtonian, Harkness began his career as a carpenter and builder, but developed into an architect. In addition to Epiphany, Harkness was the builder and/or architect for Luther Place Memorial Church on Thomas Circle, the Washington City Orphan Asylum and the original Children’s Hospital at 13th and V Streets, N.W.. When the extensions of the U.S. Capitol were built, Harkness served as the “sworn government measurer of marble work.” A civic minded man, Harkness served on the D.C. city council and waged an unsuccessful campaign for mayor in 1846. Harkness was known as a devoted Christian. He was a Methodist and initially a member of Foundry Church, which at the time was located at the end of the block from Epiphany. In 1844-45, McKendree Methodist Church was founded, mostly as an outgrowth of a Sunday School Harkness started in his carpentry shop.

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