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

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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.


Adams-Parkhurst Memorial Church

The Adams memorial Church was a child of the Madison Square Church, which in 1856 established a mission center and Sabbath School. This was first located in a house on the north side of 29th Street near Third Avenue, and then in the public school on 27th Street near Third Avenue. Lots were secured on Third Avenue north of 30th Street, and a chapel erected where the first service was held in January 1858. The work developed so rapidly, however, that it was necessary to seek larger quarters. This property was disposed of, and a church building erected at 207 East 30th Street, and dedicated March 28, 1875. It was known at this time as the Memorial Chapel. On January 21, 1886 Presbytery organized the work as the Adams Memorial Presbyterian Church in honor of Dr. William Adams for so long a time the pastor of the Madison Square Church.

At this time the German congregation, which had been meeting in the same building, effected its separate organization as the Zion Church. Later on an Armenian congregation met here and then transferred to the Congregational Church. Hospitality has been given to other groups.

In 1944 there was consummated a merger with the nearby Madison Square Church House, affiliated with the First Church, and the name was changed to the Adams-Parkhurst Memorial Church. In 1946, the church building at 207 E. 30th Street was sold, and he work combined at 432 Third Avenue.

The Church House began in 1886, when a group of laymen of the Madison Square Church met with Dr. Parkhurst and decided to open a new mission center. This has been located at 386 Third Avenue, 480 Third Avenue and since 1901 at 432 Third Avenue at 30th Street. Evangelistic work has been conducted in several languages, and an elaborate program of social service developed. The support of this work was assumed by the First Church, at the merger with the Madison Square Church. Lee W. Beattie was Superintendent 1901-37 and Clarence E. Boyer 1937-48.

The ministers: Jesse W. Hough, 1859-60; Charles H. Payson, 1860-77; Edgar A. Elmore, 1877-84; Jesse F. Forbes, 1885-1911; Frederick D. Niedermeyer, 1912-19; Harold S. Rambo, 1920- ; Clarence E. Boyer, 1944-48.

Alexander Church (Dissolved)

Mission work carried on by members of the Fifth Avenue Church at 125 (Listed also as 107) Seventh Avenue, south of 18th Street resulted in the organization of the Alexander Church in 1865. It was disbanded in 1874. The Fifth Avenue Church continued missionary work here which in 1889 was incorporated as the Chalmers Church (See Village Church). The ministers: Morse Rowell, 1865-68; David M. Maclise, 1869-74.

American International Church (Dissolved)

This is the name of the church organization at Labor Temple, 242 E. 14th Street, which is described in Chapter IV. The Presbytery recognized this church on February 15, 1915, and the directors of Labor Temple acted as ministers. It was largely a fellowship of those attracted by the general program but there were also a number of families who had belonged to the old Fourteenth Street Church, whose building had been bought for Labor Temple. Several foreign language groups were associated with this church at times, the largest being an Italian congregation under Rev. A.A. Mangiacapra, 1920-43. From 1937-39 this group met at 543 E. 11th Street.

With the change in the program of Labor Temple whereby it became more of a national center and an educational institute, it seemed wise to terminate the separate existence of the church, in 1945.

American Parish

The American Parish was the name given to an interesting experiment in the service by the Church to a very large area crowded with people of different nationalities. On the upper East Side of New York and in the adjacent territory of the Bronx there was one old English speaking church, the East Harlem Church, at 233 East 116th Street. In the same building met the First Magyar Church, and also an Italian congregation. At 340 East 106th Street was the Italian Church of the Ascension, and at 253 East 153rd Street the Italian Church of the Holy Trinity. The Church Extension Committee established the American Parish Neighborhood House at 324 Pleasant Avenue near 117th Street (1919-1927) For a time there was also a Magyar Neighborhood House at 454 East 116th Street.

All these centers were federated in 1911 with a Board of Pastors, under the chairmanship of the Director of the American Parish, who at that time was Norman Thomas. This Board gathered a staff of visitors, club leaders and volunteer workers, who served in the different centers and developed community programs as well as the more traditional forms of church and Sunday School work. After some years, however, it was found that the very success of the American Parish had so developed local leadership among the members of these churches that workers from the outside were not as necessary, and the curtailment of budgets made it seem wise to discontinue the American Parish Neighborhood House in 1927. The name American Parish still continues, comprising the three foreign language churches, but without the central staff of workers, the pastor of each church being responsible for his own program, with the co-operation of the Church Extension Committee.

Directors: Norman Thomas, 1911-18; Howard V. Yergin, 1918-24; J. Canfield Van Doren, 1924-26.

Church of the Ascension

Evangelistic services were held in the "Little Italy" district of East Harlem, beginning in 1906. Mr. Nardi, the lay evangelist, gave great impetus to this work. Several different places were used, 338 East 106th Street; 2050 First Avenue; and in a tent; and finally in 1913 a church was built by the Church extension Committee at 340 East 106th Street, and from the very beginning it was crowded with Italians. The Church of the Ascension was organized November 7, 1909.

The ministers: Francesco Pirazzini, 1906-18; Arnaldo Stasio, 1919-42; Frank C. Condro, 1942-.

Beck Memorial Church
On August 14, 1814 the village of West Farms in what is now the Bronx, with its three hundred inhabitants and a flour mill as its chief industry, sought in a meeting in the public school the organization of a Presbyterian Church, which became the First Presbyterian Church in the Village of West Farms. There were present Dr. Gardiner Spring, pastor of the Brick Church, and Mr. Robert Lenox as advisers. The enterprise was successful from the first, and in 1815 a church building was dedicated on what is now 180th Street opposite the present church building. The first pastor, Rev. Isaac Lewis, combined the oversight of this church with his pastoral work at New Rochelle.

In spite of much evidence that the work was having a great blessing, the financial burdens were heavy. There was a threat of foreclosure of the mortgage on the building. At this time two women of the church came to the rescue. The story can best be told in the words of Rev. George Nixon, who was pastor of the church from 1858-1875. He says: "I would be derelict in grateful remembrance of their zeal, consecration, self denial and deathless hope, Did I fail to record the names of Miss Nancy Leggett, the village school teacher and Miss Ann McGregor, her assistant. These ladies walked from West Farms village to Broome street to consult with an elder of Spring Street Church as to ways and means of protecting the mortgage on the church property. Acting upon this elder's advice who started the subscription with a goodly sum, these women called upon Presbyterians through the city and made their appeal with the result that they secured the needed amount. Then they walked back tired as they were, refusing to spend even the sum required for stage hire, saying it was the Lord's money and not a penny could be diverted."

Organized by the Presbytery of new York, this church was from 1829-35 enrolled in the Presbytery of Bedford, and from 1870-87 in the Presbytery of Westchester.

In 1905 there was dedicated a splendid new edifice on the south side of 180th Street at No. 980. It was made possible by a legacy from Charles Bathgate Beck, a trustee of the church and a member of one of its oldest families, in memory of his mother, and in 1910 the name of the church was changed from West Farms to Beck Memorial.

The ministers: Isaac Lewis, 1814-18; Joseph D. Wickham, 1825-29; George Stebbins, 1829-35; Matthew T. Adam, 1836-40; James B. Ramsey, 1841-46; Isaac W. Platt, 1847-58; George Nixon, 1858-75; Carson W. Adams, 1875-79; Willard Scott, 1879-83; John D. Long, 1883-85; Charles P. Mallery, 1885-1907; Maitland Bartlett, 1907-29; John M. Currie, 1929-36; James H. Urie, 1937-.

Bedford Park Church

Early in 1899 a group of people believing in the need for a new church in the Bedford Park section of the Bronx, gathered for worship in the Winghart Hall, at the north-west corner of Webster Avenue and what is now 201st Street. They were known as the Union Church of Bedford Park. Shortly thereafter, with encouragement from the Sabbath School Committee of new York Presbytery, the work came under the leadership of the Presbyterian Church.

On June 21, 1900 a meeting was called by the authority of the Presbytery of new York to form a new church. A site for a church building was secured at the northwest corner of Bedford Park Boulevard (200th Street) and Bainbridge Avenue. This was one of the first building enterprises undertaken by the recently reconstituted Church Extension Committee. Henry Sloane Coffin was installed as the first pastor of this church in 1901. The work of the church developed so greatly, that even though the original church had been enlarged, additional facilities were necessary, and in 1930 there was completed a parish house adjoining the church covering the land on which a manse had formerly stood.

This church has had for a number of years an Italian Mission, which was opened in 1911 at Villa Avenue and 204th Street. It is known as the Church of the Gospel. The minister in charge is Gustavo Verdesi.

The Ministers of the church: Henry Sloane Coffin, 1901-05; John E. Triplett, 1906-08; Archibald Black, 1909-14; James M. Howard, 1914-20; George Mair, 1920-.

Bethany Church

In the spring of 1872 a group of Christian men and women meeting in the home of Mr. William T. Hall, 601 East 141st Street, requested the Presbytery of Westchester to organize them as a church. This organization took place May 12, 1873 in Braun's Hall, with the name First Presbyterian Church of North New York. For a time meetings were held in Judge Blythe's Court Room. A temporary house of worship was erected at 140th Street and Third Avenue in 1873. In 1876 the name of the church was changed to Bethany Presbyterian Church.

In 1878 Mr. James Brown donated to the Presbytery of New York for a church site some land at 424 East 137th Street near Willis Avenue. Here Bethany Church was erected and dedicated in 1879. The church's auditorium was not completed until thirteen years later. On October 18, 1887 the church was transferred from the Presbytery of Westchester to the Presbytery of New York.

The ministers: Donald Fletcher, 1873-75; Gordon Mitchell, 1875-78; George Washington Fleming Birch, 1879-1902; Francis Edward Marsten, 1903-12; Robert George Davey, 1913-1918; David Roswell Wylie, 1918-43; Charles T. Schaeffer, 1943-45; George M. Whitmore, 1945-.

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Website: The History
Article Name: Brief Histories of the Churches connected with the Presbytery of New York. Pre: 1949 Part I
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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