Thursday, July 05, 2018

The Methodist Churches: Part 2

Here's the second installment of North Shore Staten Island Methodist churches. Since the previous posting, I've already learned significant new information regarding these and the previously posted churches. I've also successfully contacted the archivist for this region of United Methodist church and been directed to several major sources of information. As usual, the SI Advance has also been a good source of information. I so wish they would digitize their entire print run. There's so much valuable information in the pages of our local paper but it's difficult to extract. Maybe one day.

Dickinson Methodist Church
Dickinson Methodist started as a chapel on the property originally owned by the Decker family. When the land was sold for the construction of P.S. 3, the congregation set out to build a new house of worship. They held services in the school house for a few years, but eventually moved to a building constructed on Victory Boulevard in 1871. According to A.Y. Hubbell's History of Methodism and the Methodist Churches of Staten Island, the original chapel was sold to a Lutheran congregation.

According to this SI Advance article, Dickinson Methodist closed down and its congregation merged with Christ United Methodist in Graniteville in 1974. Today the building is owned by the non-denominational Staten Island Christian Church.

Graniteville Methodist Church
Graniteville Methodist was founded in 1910 and in 1914 they bought this building on Willowbrook Road. According to Leng and Davis it had originally been a Baptist church. I don't have much information about it at this point other than it closed in 1958 and merged with Holy Trinity Methodist Church on Forest Avenue. The combined congregations were first called Holy Trinity Graniteville Methodist Church, but in 1960 took the name Christ Methodist Church. Today it's called Christ United Methodist Church.

The most important thing I've learned in the past week regarding the North Shore's Methodist churches is the origin of Christ United. I put up pictures of the Italian Mission church on Harbor Road and theorized it faded away and its member shifted to Summerfield, also on Harbor Road.

The truth is very different. According to this article in the Advance, the Italian Mission was founded in 1919 by the Rev. Sante Buzzalini. In 1932 the church shown above was built from diabase rock taken from the quarry right next door (now Graniteville Quarry Park) on Forest Avenue.

west facing and north facing sides of the steeple

Again, drawing on Leng and Davis, I learned that the congregation that built this church was originally called the North Shore Free Methodist Episcopal Church. It was organized in 1867 and built their church on this location. In 1895 it caught fire and a new church had to be built - this one.

In 1966, Methodism, facing a bit of a crisis on the North Shore, handled it by merging Kingsley, Trinity, and Grace churches. The new unified church was called Faith United. A good description of how this was done can be read here on the church's website.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Methodist Churches: Part 1

I've written before about what I call "the Great Collapse" of the Methodist denomination of the late sixties and early seventies. Several churches, some of them with quite long histories, closed and consolidated with other congregations. I put it down to changing demographics. The Wasp middle-class Islanders who attended these churches were fleeing to New Jersey and other distant regions. I've tried reaching out the archivist for the Methodist church, but with no luck so far. I'm going to have to give it another try if I'm going to get a better understanding of just what happened all those years ago. 

Asbury Methodist Church - Richmond Avenue

In 1771, at the age of 26, Francis Asbury volunteered to bring Methodist teachings to America. He preached his first sermon in the colonies at the Methodist congregation in Woodrow, Staten Island. Eventually he became the leader of the Methodist church in America. On a regular basis, he preached on Staten Island, for over forty years. Asbury Methodist Church was founded in 1804. The present building, now home to SonRise Faith Church, was built in 1849. It has seen several major renovations over its 160+ years. Originally, it didn't have a bell tower, for example. The Advance did a short piece on it a few years back you can read here.

According to Leng and Davis, Asbury Church was founded in 1802. For decades it was the only Methodist church on the North Shore. I don't know what year Asbury disbanded and I don't know specifically which, if any, congregation it merged with. As the project progresses I'll, I hope, find out.

Italian Methodist Mission - Harbor Road

I don't know anything about this, other than mission churches to immigrant groups were standard for mainline denominations back in the day. Olivet Presbyterian started life as an Italian mission established by Calvary Presbyterian and I've written about the Italian Episcopalian church on Jewett Avenue. I'd guess that at some point the church closed and any remaining Italian congregants joined Summerfield Methodist Church just a few blocks up Harbor towards the Terrace. Today, it's part of Pentecostal Tabernacle

Summerfield Methodist Church - Harbor Road
Summerfield was founded in 1839 so the Methodists of Mariner's Harbor didn't have to travel all the way to New Springville anymore. This building went up in 1869. Of all today's churches, it's the only one still a Methodist church.

Kingsley Methodist Church - Cebra Avenue

Incorporated originally as the Tompkinsville Methodist Church, this building was built in 1855. Enlarged in 1870, it became known as Kingsley Methodist. It closed in 1967. Since then it has been a private residence, a non-denominational church, and a Mormon center.

Trinity Methodist Church - Delafield Avenue
The roots of the congregation of Trinity Methodist Church went back to 1837. This beautiful church was built in 1912 after the previous building, erected in 1869, burnt down in 1909. The Methodist congregation, once huge, was disbanded in 1970, its members joining other congregations. For the next 35 years it housed Congregation Agudath Achim Anshe Chesed, which had previously been located on Jersey Street.
Sadly, this building was lost to fire in November, 2015. The Advance, once again, has a good article on the church and its history.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

And Yet More North Shore Churches: Baptists

Here you go, a third round of churches. This is where things start to get a lot more confusing. Most of the older Baptist churches on the North Shore have moved from their original locations and consolidated with other congregations.

St. Phillip's  (Amer) - Bennett Street. Originally on Faber Street. St. Philip's original building was eventually used by Mar Thoma Church Staten Island and has been replaced with a new building.
Willowbrook Park (cons) - Richmond Avenue. Merged in 1960s from First and Mariner's Harbor churches
First Central Baptist (Amer) founded in 1978, uses Temple Tifireth building on Wright Street.
Fellowship Baptist (Amer) - founded in 1966, uses Mariner's Harbor Dutch Reformed Church on Richmond Terrace (show in previous post)
Mariner's Harbor - closed and merged, originally on Union Avenue. Building now used by Staten Island Seventh Day Adventist Church
First Baptist - closed and merged, originally on Hamilton Avenue. Building now used by Glorious Church of God in Christ
Park Baptist Church - defunct. Building now used by St. Mary's Orthodox Church

    old Zion Lutheran on Bennett Street                                 St. Philip's Baptist on Bennett today              

original St. Philip's Baptist building on Faber Street (c.1889)

First Baptist building on Hamilton and Westervelt (c.1898)

Friday, April 20, 2018

More Listings by Denomination: Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Reformed, African Methodist Episcopal, and Union American Methodist Episcopal

Thank you, everybody, who dropped by the other day and pointed out churches I left out. As that was so helpful, I'm going to put up more right now. If you see any omissions, please, tell me and I'll correct it.


Christ Church  - Franklin Avenue

St. Paul's - St. Paul's Avenue
Church of the Ascension - Kingsley Avenue
St. John's - Bay Street
St. Mary's  - Davis Avenue
All-Saints - Victory Blvd.
Italian Mission - disbanded and demolished, Jewett Avenue
Norwegian Mission - disbanded, Albion Place

Calvary Presbyterian Church
Olivet - Myrtle Avenue, originally a chapel on West Street
Calvary  - Davis Avenue
First  - disbanded, Brownell Street, now used by the Temple of Restoration

Dutch Reformed
Brighton Heights - St. Mark's Place, original building burned down
Reformed Church on Staten Island - Port Richmond Avenue
Mariner's Harbor - disbanded, now used by Fellowship Baptist

Stapleton UAME Church
African Methodist Episcopal
Shiloh AME Zion - Henderson Avenue

Union American Methodist Episcopal
Stapleton UAME - Tompkins Avenue

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

North Shore House of Worship Project

Kingsley Methodist and parsonage
My original impetus for blogging about the North Shore of Staten Island was to complete something I called "the Church Project." Fascinated by the rise and fall of communities, the changing demographics of Staten Island over the last century or two, and the persistence of congregations despite surrounding changes, I planned to investigate and chronicle the history of the churches of the Island's North Shore. Where it occurred, I'd look into how buildings transferred from one denomination to another in the light, most often, of demographic changes. 

Kingsley buildings today
As some of the oldest churches are destroyed (i.e. Brighton Heights Reformed and Trinity Methodist), it is also important to document the churches as tangible things, as works of spiritually-inspired art and architecture. I wanted to get as many pictures of as many buildings as possible, particularly the lost ones.

I made a list of all the main worship buildings, past and present, I could think of or document. I put stickers on a map to get some sort of impression of where old ethnic or religious communities were located. I even reached out to one Episcopal church for information (they never got back to me). It was clear it was going to be a difficult undertaking, so when other elements of Staten Island history caught my eye I let the Church Project drop.

St. John's Lutheran
Now, I've been doing this site for about a decade. It's had it good and bad times, but my time at the CSI SI Archives for the last three years has been exactly what I needed to keep me revved up and excited about this site. So excited it turns out, I'm going to attempt to carry out the Church Project.

I'm going to start small. I'll start with one denomination at a time and see how it goes. I'm debating whether to do the Dutch Reformed Church or the Methodist Church first. The former is smaller, with fewer congregations, and its main archives are only in New Brunswick. It's also the church my dad grew up in.

The Methodist Church was bigger on Staten Island, at least through the sixties, and more intriguing. Something happened about fifty years ago and numerous congregations closed and merged with others. From seven churches it shrank to the three that exist today: Faith United, Christ United, and Summerfield, all concentrated in the NW corner of the Island. I'd love to learn what precipitated such a drastic change. The Methodist investigation, though, might be much tougher, so I'm still deciding.

St. John's today
I'm writing about this because I want your help. If you have any information about the archives or histories of any North Shore churches or synagogues, please let me know. I'm especially interested in buildings that have been permanently closed or destroyed. I want pictures, any pictures, but I also want documents discussing the conversations the congregants were having as believers and as members of an organization. I want to know what they were doing for mutual self-help and for their communities. Did community extend beyond fellow worshippers or out into the streets and homes beyond? At this early stage, any help will be greatly appreciated. At the very least, it will help me start focusing on exactly how I want this project to proceed.

For my purposes, the North Shore includes everything north of Victory Blvd. and the Expressway. I'm including the churches along Richmond Avenue opposite Willowbrook Park because several of them figure directly into the history of others further north. 

Lutheran Churches
Trinity - St. Paul's Ave. and Beach Street
Our Savior - Bard and Forest Avenues (originally Nicholas Ave.)
St. Paul/St. Luke  - Decker and Catherine (originally Wasa Lutheran)
St. Paul  - Cary Avenue - defunct, merged with Wasa
Zion - Watchogue Rd - originally Park Ave and before that Avenue B
Immanuel - Richmond Avenue
German Church - York Avenue - split from Trinity and closed ca. 1930
St. John's - Jewett and Post - LCMS
Bethany - Westcott - Lutheran Brethren
St. Olaf's - defunct, bottom of Hendricks - I don't know if this was actually Lutheran, but as it was Norwegian it's possible.

Methodist Churches
Faith United - Heberton and Castleton Avenues
Christ United - Forest Avenue in Graniteville
Summerfield - Harbor Road
Asbury - Richmond Road - defunct, presently SonRise Faith Church
Willowbrook Road (I don't even know the name of this church, or now that I think about it, that it was even Methodist. Maybe it's something I read once) - defunct, presently occupied by Iglesia Pentecostal Rehoboth
Kingsley - foot of Cebra Avenue, defunct
Trinity - defunct, Delafield and Elizabeth - burned down recently
Italian Mission - disbanded, Harbor Road

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Jersey Street Projects Project: Part Seven - west side of Jersey Street between Crescent Avenue and Cleveland Street

This is my favorite stretch of recreated Jersey Street I've done to date. The reason is the looming presence of St. Stanislaus looking down from York Avenue in many of the shots. Today, blocked by the line of trees and brush that fills the lots these buildings once occupied, the church is barely visible from Jersey Street level. Once, though, it was a major element of the local skyline and a reminded of the Church as part of everyday life.


When I first copied and pieced together this shot I wasn't completely sure it was the right one. As you can see, it isn't labeled like the rest. I don't know why, but many of the photos are in a general sort of catch-all file. There's a code on the master list telling which picture is supposed to be which, but still, this didn't look right. I had collected this shot first so I didn't recognize the structure in the upper right corner for what it is, St. Stanislaus.

It seems funny to find detached homes in what seems like such a urban area as Jersey Street, but I think I understand what was going on. I think Jersey Street was originally lined with such buildings on decent-sized lots. As the years went on and the development accelerated, several would be torn down and replaced with the multi-story mixed residential and commercial buildings featured in most of these pictures. This particular house appears on the 1874 map.

1917 street map

         1924 aerial map           present day street map    present day aerial map

Regular readers have read me gripe about what I consider the heartlessness of the city planners who ripped down neighborhoods like this part of New Brighton in order to replace it with overcrowded housing projects in the name of urban renewal. I believe this shot, better than many others I've presented, prove my case. All those buildings above were destroyed sixty years ago and since then all that's there is a garbage-strewned and fenced off lot. It's both ugly and cut off from public access. What was the point of that? I'd be surprised to hear a good one suggested.

Jersey Street - winter 2013

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

West Brighton Projects Project Part 7: southwest corner of Market and Richmond

Quick addition to the ongoing recreation of the neighborhood demolished to clear way for the construction of the West Brighton Houses. I still need to get a few more house pictures to show the rest of the block, but I've got these, so why not just put them up?

Unlike some of the other blocks, this appears to be all residential. It's the usual Staten Island mix of wooden and stucco buildings, some 
single-family, others multi-. I still cannot believe that once upon a time there were urban planners who believed massive towers packed with people and devastated commercial centers was an improvement for the lives of the poor and working class.

1917 Map

1924 Aerial Map

2012 Aerial Map

Thursday, February 15, 2018

West Brighton Projects Project Part 6: West side of Broadway, between West Union and Henderson

I remembered that I hadn't finished recreating the neighborhood wiped out to build the West Brighton Houses. Some of it's because I've had a little trouble pulling all the pictures together. In others, like with today's post, it's because I've forgotten to do it. So, without further ado, Broadway between the no-longer-extant West Union Street and Henderson Avenue.

As usual, I'm somewhat fascinated by the closeness of significant commercial buildings to actual houses. Modern building doesn't seem to do this in any way. I guess the goal of suburban development is to keep the two at more of an arm's length, save for the deli or drycleaner you can walk to. It's also, obviously, a result of carcentric planning. Cars allow you to build the something like the old Penney's Plaza on Forest and Barrett and assume the people from West New Brighton will go there. They don't need a major shopping and dining area outside their door. I'm surprised no one seems to be suggesting this sort of old fashioned building as an antidote to heavy traffic. I would much rather walk to a store than have to take the bus or ride a bike any day of the week. Is this sort of pedestrian friendly development even allowed anymore? Seriously, does anyone know?

1917 Map

NYC 1924 Aerial Map

2012 Google Maps