Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Laying of the Cornerstone of Pelhamville's Church of the Redeemer on June 21, 1892

For many years a beautiful church building stood in the Village of North Pelham.  It was the Church of the Redeemer.  The church congregation laid the cornerstone for the structure on June 23, 1892.  It stood for many years on Second Avenue in today's Village of Pelham.

The church congregation later built what became its combined Parish Hall and Church located at 20 Fifth Avenue.  Today that structure is the Richard J. Daronco Town House that serves as the Town of Pelham's community center.

In 1969, the original Church of the Redeemer was vacant and suffered a terrible fire. Authorities made a decision to raze the structure.  Within a short time (1974), the Church of the Redeemer combined with Christ Church in the Village of Pelham Manor to create the Parish of Christ the Redeemer.  Three years later the Church deeded the Parish Hall and Church at 20 Fifth Avenue to the Town of Pelham for use as a community center.

1910 Post Card View of the Original Church of the Redeemer.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

The early history of the original Church of the Redeemer is quite fascinating. A simple ceremony celebrated the laying of the cornerstone for the Church of the Redeemer on June 23, 1892.  A group of clergy from throughout the region gathered at the site.  Mrs. Isaac C. Hill led a children's choir that performed appropriate songs.  The Rector, Cornelius Winter Bolton, read an extensive history of the small church and the cornerstone was laid.  The cornerstone had a Maltese cross and the date "1892" chiseled on its face.  Within the cornerstone, those gathered that day placed a copper box to serve as a time capsule.  That time capsule contained a number of items (listed in the article quoted below) including the day's newspapers, 1892 silver coins, church publications, and much more.  The time capsule also contained a copy of the history of the church prepared by Rev. Bolton and read at the time of the cornerstone laying.

It is fortunate that Reverend Cornelius Winter Bolton's entire history was published in a local newspaper two days later.  As one would expect, it sheds important light on the early history of the Church of the Redeemer. 

The cornerstone and the bell from the original Church of the Redeemer now stand as a monument in front of the Richard J. Daronco Town House on Fifth Avenue in Pelham.  The recovery of the cornerstone and the rediscovery of the forgotten time capsule within make for a fascinating story as well. 

Cornerstone and Bell from the Original Church
of the Redeemer.  Now Kept as a Monument in
Front of the Richard J. Daronco Town House on
Fifth Avenue in the Village of Pelham.  Photograph
by the Author, 2004.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

On December 18, 1969, a demolition crew worked to demolish the Church of the Redeemer.  According to papers in the collection of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham, "as the steeple roof and large stone chimney fell . . . North Pelham Police Chief Adolph V. Rusillo stopped by."  Chief Rusillo asked whether anyone had thought to remove the cornerstone of the building so it could be kept by the congregation at the congregation's new location in the combined Parish Hall and Church at 20 Fifth Avenue.  To his surprise, no such arrangements had been made.

Chief Rusillo thoughtfully asked that the cornerstone be removed and saved.  As the stone was lifted, a heavy copper box appeared beneath -- an 1892 time capsule placed by the congregation 77 years earlier!  Within that time capsule were the items listed by Reverend Bolton when he delivered his remarks at the laying of that cornerstone.  (See below.)

Drawing of the Church of the Redeemer,
as it was Planned to be Built, Published
in 1892.  Source:  Corner Stone Laying --
OF THE PARISHThe Daily Argus [Mount Vernon,
NY], Jun. 23, 1892, Vol. 1, No. 72, p. 2, cols. 2-4.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

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"Corner Stone Laying
A Pretty Edifice For Pelhamville.

Tuesday was a great day for Pelhamville, our thrifty neighbor to the east, especially among the parishioners of the Church of the Redeemer the corner stone of whose new edifice was laid with imposing ceremonies by the Rt. Rev. H. C. Potter, assisted by Arch-deacon F. B. Van Kleeck, assisted by the Revs. Charles Higbee, Pelham; Charles Smeck, Norwalk, Conn.; John Drissler, Gouverneur Cruger; Thomas Siel, of New York; John Bolton, Westchester, Pa.; William Samuel Coffey, Eastchester; Stephen F. Homes. Harry I. Bodley, of Mount Vernon.  The singing was in charge of Mrs. I. C. Hill, and was rendered by a chorus of children in a manner to elicit warm praise.

The history of the parish was prepared and read by the Rector, C. Winter Bolton, which appears in full in this connection.

The architect of the new edifice was Henry S. Rapelye, of this city; W. A. Thomas, of Rye, mason; builder, James Thompson, of Rose Bank, Staten Island; metal work, Richard V. Drake, Mount Vernon; slating, F. T. Rich; glass, Tyrolese Art Glass Company, of New York.


This Parish was commenced in 1859-'60 by Miss Nanette Bolton, of Pelham Priory, who was asked to come over and hold a Sunday school by a resident of the place as they had no religious worship there.  The first service was held in the orchard under the trees.  Miss Bolton was assisted by the lady teachers residing with her.  Soon after this the Misses Schyuler [sic] were urged to join the mission party, and the work was committed into their hands.  A service was held by the Rev. John Bolton in the upper room of the R. R. depot.

After this the loft of a carpenter's shop was obtained which the people had to ascend by means of a ladder.

The classes from the first were well attended by adults and children.  At length the use of the school house was procured.  Here services were conducted by the Rev. Mr. Lyle, Rector of Christ Church, Pelham.  The building was unusually full.  This continued for two years.  Mr. Schuyler, Senior Warden of Christ Church, united with the Rector in trying to obtain a site and building for permanent worship.  They succeeded in buying the present lot on Fourth avenue, and also an old carpenters shop which was moved and placed on the lot.  Money was raised by subscription among friends to pay for it.  But the work was suddenly arrested by the death of Mr. Schuyler in 1865.  During the absence of Misses Schuylers Miss Bolton again assumed charge.

The Rev. Mr. Lyle resigned Christ Church, Pelham, to return to the mission in China, and the Rev. Mr. Harding was called to the Parish Church.  In 1869 the Misses Schuyler returned to work at the request of Miss Bolton who found that her duties at home required all her time. 

In 1870, on the resignation of Mr. Harding, the Rev. Mr. Higbee, present incumbent, was called to the parish.  He thought it would be to the interest of the mission to throw it on its own resources.  The services of a student from the General Theological Seminary were secured and Mr. Pentreath commenced as a Lay Reader.  In February, 1872, he called a meeting of the villagers for the purpose of organizing a parish, and it was Resolved, 'That they incorporate as a distinct church and parish to be known as The Church of the Redeemer, Pelhamville.'

The first wardens were Wm. H. Sparks and James Parish.  The vestry were Ed. A. Patterson, Jas. W. Roosevelt, Chas. Barker, Wm. H. Johnson, John Case, Frederick Wahl, Wm. H. Penfield and William H. Leonard.  The first vestry meeting was held on March 6th, 1872.  The church at Pelham then handed over to them the deed of the property.

Robt. W. Barnwell, another student, succeeded Mr. Pentreath.  The Rev. Dr. Coffey, rector of St. Paul's, Eastchester, kindly officiated when either of the sacraments were desired.  From 1872 to '80 the parish was served by students.  There was no visible growth in the place, rather a backward tendency, and it was a constant anxiety to all interests to sustain and provide for its support. 

At the expiration of 18 months Mr. Barnwell was ordained, and left.  The Rev. Mr. Howell, rector of Grace Church, City Island, was requested to take charge of the work in connection with his own.  This he did for a short time until he removed to New York City.

The neighboring clergy were then asked to look after the little parish and give an afternoon service.  This they kindly consented to do for some time.

Again it was thought wise to look once more to the seminary for a student, and Mr. Beavan took charge of the work.  He was followed by Mr. Nelligan, but in his health soon failed and he died in Bellevue Hospital, New York. 

Here a cloud arose and threatened the welfare of the parish for a few months.  During this period it was thought best to return the deed of the property to the rector, wardens and vestrymen of Christ Church, Pelham, to prevent its passing into the hands of another denomination.  On the return of spring the clouds began to disperse.  The Misses Schuyler and Miss Bolton again rallied to the rescue, and the services of the Rev. Mr. Lewis, of New York City, were secured.  This arrangement lasted for about a year, when he left for England.

I was strongly urged to take charge of the work, which I did on the first Sunday in November, 1880, and found an interesting male Bible class under the charge of Miss Fanny Schuyler, a female Bible class under Miss Bolton's care, while the smaller children were grouped in classes under different teachers.  There were 21 families and 18 communicants on the roll.   There was only a Sunday afternoon service.  The next Sunday we commenced a morning service as well as the afternoon.  The two services have been sustained ever since. 

The first thing to be done was to reorganize the parish without delay, and a request was made to the rector, wardens and vestry of Christ Church to return the deeds of the property which had been entrusted to their care.  This they kindly granted.

It was felt necessary that the rector should live among the people.  There being no house, it was proposed to build a parsonage.  In the fall of 1886 the rectory was completed and has been occupied ever since.

The lot on which the rectory stands was bought by the vestry, and Mrs. H. H. Seaver very generously gave the remaining three lots, on one of which the church is now being built.

We have at present 47 families belonging to the church, with 57 communicants and a Sunday school of over 50 children.

We would take this opportunity to thank the neighboring clergy for all their past favors; and Almighty God for His protecting care and many blessings.


A Bible and Prayer Book.
Copy of the last General Convention.
Copy of the last Journal of the Diocese of New York.
Digest of the Canons.
Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of New York.  1888.
83d Report of the New York Bible and Common Prayer Book Society.  1891.
The Church Almanac for 1892.
Whittaker's Churchman's Almanac for 1892.
Copy of the New York Churchman, June 18, 1892.
Copy of The Parish Visitor for June, 1892.
A 'History of the Parish,' as read by the rector.
Silver coins for 1892.
Copy of the New York Tribune for Jun. 21, 1892.
Copy of the Mount Vernon Chronicle.
A list of the present church officers, Sunday School teachers and choir."

Source:  Corner Stone Laying -- THE CHURCH OF THE REDEEMER BEGUN -- A Pretty Edifice For Pelhamville -- HISTORY OF THE PARISH, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Jun. 23, 1892, Vol. 1, No. 72, p. 2, cols. 2-4

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I have written about the Church of the Redeemer on a number of occasions. For examples, see

Fri., May 02, 2014:  Early History of the Church of the Redeemer in the Village of North Pelham.

Fri., Feb. 28, 2014:  Brief History of the Role Churches Played in the Growth of the Pelhams Published in 1926

Wed., Nov. 08, 2006:  The Time Capsule in the Cornerstone of the Church of the Redeemer in the Village of North Pelham

Wed., Mar. 15, 2006:  A Biography of Cornelius W. Bolton Published in 1899

Mon., Mar. 07, 2005:  What is That Bell Resting on a Stone Pedestal in Front of the Richard J. Daronco Townhouse at 20 Fifth Avenue?

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