Brief Histories of the Churches connected with the Presbytery of New York. Pre: 1949 Part II

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Churches in the Boroughs of Manhattan, Bronx and Richmond. Churches which have been dissolved are so indicated. Churches which have merged with others are to be found under the names of the churches of which they became a part.


Bethlehem Memorial Church

For a great many years the members of the University Place Church conducted Sunday School and mission work on the lower West Side. It is recorded that on February 5th, 1847 a Sunday School was started in the public school building on 13th Street near Sixth Avenue and known as the University Place Church Mission. Meetings were also conducted in homes in the neighborhood. In 1858 the building of the Half Orphan Asylum at 140 Sixth Avenue was leased and Rev. Charles H. Payson was secured as minister. The Civil War depleted the attendance, many of the teachers and officers enlisting in the Army. However, prayer meetings were continued and in 1867 preaching services were resumed. These were held in a number of different places, at one time meeting in the public school at 180 Wooster Street. Two other mission Sunday Schools were merged with it. At this time the superintendent was Theodore Roosevelt, the father of President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1894 a chapel building was secured at 196 Bleecker Street, and here the work developed rapidly with many forms of social service as well. The mission was given the name "Bethlehem" as early as 1873.

The number of Italians in the neighborhood increased greatly, and it was decided to organize those who wanted services in this language as a special congregation under the name of the Church of the Gospel. This church was received by Presbytery in September 1918. The children were all in the one school in Bethlehem Chapel and the work was all under one roof with the pastor of the church and the pastor of the chapel taking joint responsibility.

In 1931 a merger was arranged with the Charlton Street Church, organized as an undenominational church in 1903, which had been started by the New York City Mission Society in Prince Street and moved to 34 Charlton Street in 1906. The Charlton Street Church, the Church of the Gospel, and Bethlehem Chapel were combined under the name of Bethlehem Memorial Presbyterian Church. This work is affiliated with the First Church and for a time had the cooperation of the New York City Mission Society.

In 1941 the Charlton Street property was sold. After a year of federation with the Judson Memorial Baptist Church on Washington Square, Bethlehem Memorial moved to the Spring Street Church building, sharing the facilities with that congregation.

The Ministers, since the work was established at Bleecker Street: Herbert Ford, 1891-1903; George H. Simonson, 1900-04; Joseph W. Miller, 1904-12; D. Ernest McCurry, 1912-1916; Ernest L. Walz, 1917-22; Thomas Barbieri, 1917-29; Elliott Speer, 1923-24; Theodore C. Speers, 1925-28; Matthew C. Cavell, 1929-31; Gaetano Lisi, 1931-43; Sylvan Poet, 1943-.

Bloomingdale Church (Dissolved)

The name Bloomingdale was used by several different bodies as it was the name given to the more or less undefined section of the West Side of Manhattan stretching North from 42nd Street.

The one church which was definitely organized as the Bloomingdale Church was a small group which was received by the Presbytery in 1845. It met in a hall at 169 West 50th Street. After a number of years of struggle it was dissolved in 1856. J. Addison Cary was the first minister.

The Fiftieth Street Tabernacle church used the name Bloomingdale, and also the Forty-Second Street Church.

Bowery Church (Dissolved)

The Bowery Church, organized in 1822, was an outgrowth of the work of the Female Missionary Society for the Poor. Two of its missionaries, Ward Stafford and Samuel T. Mills were responsible for organizing this and other churches. The Bowery Church, made up of people of very simple means, accomplished a good work, but the financial burdens were too great and the building at 66 Bowery near Hester Street, was sold and the church disbanded in 1841.

The ministers: Ward Stafford, 1823-27; Joseph S. Christmas, 1829-30; John Woodbridge, 1830-36; Richard W. Dickinson, 1836-37.

Broadway Church

The Broadway Church was organized as the Bleecker Street Church on April 20, 1825. The first meeting was in the house of Peter Hattrick, 43 Bleecker Street. For more than a year before this Mr. Bruen, who became the first pastor and was a missionary of the Domestic Missionary Society, had been conducting a Sunday School in the neighborhood. Shortly thereafter a site for a church building was secured on the north side of Bleecker Street east of Broadway, and the new church edifice was dedicated May 14, 1826. It is reported that at that time the church was so far uptown as to be almost out of the city, and difficulty was experienced in attracting a satisfactory congregation so far away. By 1852 the church had to be sold because it was so far downtown that people would not take the journey so far to the south.

A new site was secured at 286 Fourth Avenue between 22nd and 23rd Streets, and here a Chapel was dedicated in 1853, and the church on April 8, 1855. The corporate name was changed to the Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church.

History repeated itself and the Fourth Avenue location proved to be in the midst of business, and removal became imperative. The building was sold in 1910 and the congregation removed to the northwest corner of Broadway and 114th Street, where a new building was completed in 1912. The name of the church became the Broadway Presbyterian Church.

This church maintained for a time two Mission Chapels. Grace Chapel at 310 East 22nd Street was opened in 1866 and continued until 1895. Hope Chapel was opened in 1877 over a stable in East 4th Street and Avenue C. It was later transferred to 339 East 4th Street. Here work was carried on until 1914. During its last five years the Presbyterian Board of Home Missions entered into a cooperative arrangement whereby it sponsored work for the foreign speaking populations in that district. It was headquarters for Ruthenian work, and also for a Jewish Mission.

The ministers of the Broadway Church: Matthias Bruen, 1825-29; Erskine Mason, 1830-51; Joel Parker, 1852-63; Howard Crosby, 1863-91; John R. Davies, 1893-98; Walter D. Buchanan, 1899-1934; John H. McComb, 1935-.

The ministers of Grace Chapel: F.V.D. Garretson, 1871-73; L.P. Cumings, 1874-75: A. Colville, 1879-91; Charles P. Fagnani, 1882-85; Henry G. Birchly, 1885-90; Lewis W. Barney, 1890-02; James B. Hunter, 1892-96.

The ministers of Hope Chapel: William J. McKittrick, 1876-88: John B. Devins, 1888-98; Charles Stelzle, 1899-1900; Albert Bruchlos, 1900-08; Oliver H. Bronson, 1910-11; John E. Fleming, 1911-14.

Broadway Tabernacle Church (Dissolved)

The Broadway Tabernacle Church, one of the great Congregational churches, had an interesting relationship with the Third Presbytery of New York in the early days. It was established in 1835 when a considerable group of members of the Second Free Presbyterian Church left that body with their pastor, Charles G. Finney and organized themselves as a Congregational Church. They erected at 340 Broadway, between Leonard and Worth Streets what was described as the largest auditorium in the United States, seating 2500. The governing policy of the church was partly Congregational, but its affairs, temporal and spiritual, were controlled by a regularly elected session in the Presbyterian manner. In 1838 the church petitioned the Presbytery that it be regularly received and enrolled as a Presbyterian Church and stated that all its elders had answered the constitutional questions of the Presbyterian Church and had been ordained according to its Form of Government. They requested also the merger with it of the First Free Church and this was approved. The Rev. Jacob Helffenstein who had been preaching in the First Free Church was recognized as the pastor although there seems to be no record that he was ever received as a member of the Presbytery. He was succeeded by the Rev. Joel Parker who had been the first minister of the First Free Church. In 1840 the large church building had to be sold because of the mortgage and Broadway Tabernacle Church disappeared from the records of Presbytery, to be reorganized as a Congregational Church.

Calvary Church

Residents of the West New Brighton section of Staten Island met on February 22, 1870, at the house of A.W. Sexton and determined to organize a "church and society" but did not designate its denominational connection. A year later, after considerable funds were raised, it was decided that the new church should be Presbyterian. Mrs. Bement donated lots at the corner of Bement and Castleton Avenues for the erection of the church edifice. On November 17, 1872 the Presbytery of Brooklyn organized the Calvary Presbyterian Church, and the dedication of the church edifice took place at the same time.

The original church building was burned in 1892, but a new church erected on the same site and dedicated in 1894. The parish house was completed in 1930.

This church was transferred to the Presbytery of New York in 1904. An Italian Mission, Calvary Chapel, was carried on by this church with the cooperation of the Church Extension Committee from 1909, at 25 West Street. This was in 1946 organized as the Olivet Church.

The ministers: J. Milton Greene, 1872-81; Theodore A. Leggett, 1881-1904; Edward J. Russell, 1904-19; Mebane Ramsay, 1920-47; Gerald J. Huenink, 1948-.

Calvary Church (Dissolved)

The Calvary Presbyterian Church, not to be confused with the one on Staten island, was organized January 12, 1882, meeting first on 111th Street East of Lexington Avenue, and later at Madison Avenue and 113th Street. Its only church building was on 116th Street West of Fifth Avenue. In 1889 the church was dissolved.

Minister: James Chambers, 1882-89.

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Website: The History
Article Name: Brief Histories of the Churches connected with the Presbytery of New York. Pre: 1949 Part II
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From my collection of books: The Presbyterian Church in New York City by Theodore Fiske Savage; published by The Presbytery of New York 1949
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