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

No comments: