More on the History of the Church of the Redeemer in Pelhamville Including a Photograph of the First Building it Used
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Recently while researching unrelated aspects of Pelham history I ran across a significant article on the history of the Church of the Redeemer that once stood in Pelhamville. The article, written by then Rector of the Church, Herbert H. Brown, was published in 1940. It is significant for a host of reasons. First, it includes a photograph of the carpenter's shop that once stood on First Avenue where early members of the church met in the loft of that building. I had never seen a photograph of the carpenter's shop before. Second, the article includes a host of information about the early history of the church that, likewise, I had never seen before.
I have written about The Church of the Redeemer on a number of occasions. For a few examples, see:
Wed., Nov. 11, 2015: The Laying of the Cornerstone of Pelhamville's Church of the Redeemer on June 21, 1892.
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?
Those who love North Pelham know much about the beloved Church of the Redeemer. The roots of the church extend back to 1859. The tiny settlement of Pelhamville was in its infancy, only eight years after it was surveyed, mapped, and offered for sale by lots.
Christ Church, the beautiful and thriving Episcopal Church founded in Pelham Manor by Rev. Robert Bolton, sought to extend its mission to Pelhamville, only a decade after the Bolton family extended Christ Church's mission to City Island.
According to this article, one of the "day servants" working at the Priory School in Pelham Manor made "an appeal" to Miss Nanette Bolton of the Priory School (something I never had heard) asking her to help begin a mission of the church to serve the twenty-five "scattered families" that lived in the tiny settlement at the time. Nanette Bolton worked with "two or three" students of the Priory School to create a "Sunday School" established in the loft of a carpenter's shop on First Avenue not far from where the Church of the Redeemer built its main church building beginning in 1892.
Though I never have seen a photograph of the tiny wooden frame carpenter's shop in which the Sunday School held its earliest meetings, the 1940 article written by a Rector of the Church of the Redeemer includes such a photograph. Though the quality is very poor, it gives an important sense of the original structure, so important to the history of North Pelham.
During the early years of the church, members of the congregation met in at least three different places: (1) the loft of the carpenter's shop on First Avenue; (2) the wooden Pelhamville train station that once stood where today's Pelham National Bank Building at One Wolfs Lane stands; and (3) the little red Pelhamville school house that once stood about where today's Hutchinson Elementary School stands. In about 1864, members of the congregation began agitating for the construction of a church. Enough money was raised to purchase land on the east side of Fourth Avenue near Third Street to build the new church.
Knowing how difficult it would be to raise the funds necessary to build a church sufficiently large to serve the growing population of Pelhamville, the congregation quickly moved to purchase the original carpenter's shop in which the Sunday School first had met. The newly-acquired building was moved to the new site. After alterations, the old carpenter's shop became "a simple unpretentious chapel." Church services and Sunday School classes met in the tiny wooden chapel for "several years."
During at least those "several years," services were carried on by "a young undergraduate engaged each year from the General Theological Seminary in New York City, at other times by the clergy of Christ Church and from neighboring parishes."
By 1872, however, (about thirteen years after Nanette Bolton and her compatriots first began a Pelhamville "mission") it was time to create a new parish. On February 27, 1872, Pelhamville residents incorporated "an organized parish of the Protestant Episcopal Church under the name of the Church of the Redeemer."
Church of the Redeemer suffered through many years without a "settled pastor." Members of the congregation became upset and, once again, agitated for change. According to one source: "The church was, however, continued for a number of years without a settled pastor. Out of this circumstance sprang seeds of dissension which threatened to destroy it."
In early 1881, Nanette Bolton observed the dire nature of the "mission" she had helped create. She approached one of her brothers, Reverend Cornelius Winter Bolton, to urge him to "take charge of the Mission." In December of that year became the Church of the Redeemer's first rector, holding that office for 25 years. According to one account (quoted below):
"Shortly after his installation he purchased an acre of ground on Second Avenue and Second Street and built the present rectory upon it, and in 1892 he built the Gothic stone church -- both still in use. Within seven years he cleared the parish of its debt."
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.
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"NEWS FROM PELHAM TOWN AND THE VILLAGES
Redeemer Church, Founded In Loft In 1859, Now Has 300 Members, 6 Parish Societies
By THE REV. H. H. BROWN Rector
Religious work which ultimately brought into existence the Church of the Redeemer in Pelham began about the year 1859. It was inaugurated by Miss Nanette Bolton of Pelham Manor in response to an appeal made by one of the day servants at the Priory School -- of which Miss Bolton was the head -- to help the little community of Pelhamville, as North Pelham was then called and which consisted of 25 scattered families.
Miss Bolton assisted by two or three of the young ladies of her school, gathered the children of the community into the loft of a carpenter's shop on First Avenue, near the site of the present church edifice. After a few months Miss Bolton was obliged to relinquish the work and Miss Fannie Schuyler of West Neck, granddaughter of General Philip Schuyler of Revolutionary fame, assumed charge.
Use Public School
Before long the loft, proving too small, was vacated and the group met in the village public school, a small frame structure on Fourth Street between Second and Third Avenues, opposite the present Hutchinson Grade School. Here Sunday School continued for three years to hold its sessions.
As Miss Bolton and Miss Schuyler were members of Christ Church, Pelham Manor, the enterprise from its inception was considered something of an adjunct of that parish.
Thus it was the Rev. Edward W. Syle, then rector of Christ Church, began to come over on Sunday afternoons to conduct evening prayer at the close of the Sunday School sessions and to speak to the people assembled. These religious services were the first ever held in North Pelham.
In 1864 or thereabouts, a suggestion was made that the little congregation should have an edifice of its own. The suggestion met with a cordial response. Residents of the village supported the motion, and a site of ground was purchased on the east side of Fourth Avenue near Third Street.
Building Is Purchased
As soon as this was steps were taken to acquire the original carpenter's shop in which the Sunday School first met. The building was acquired, bodily removed to the new site and, after suitable alterations, was converted into a simple unpretentious chapel. Services and Sunday School classes met here uninterruptedly for several years.
First services were generally carried on by a young undergraduate engaged each year from the General Theological Seminary in New York City, at other times by the clergy of Christ Church and from neighboring parishes.
On Feb. 27, 1872, the work was incorporated into an organized parish of the Protestant Episcopal Church under the name of the Church of the Redeemer. The church was, however, continued for a number of years without a settled pastor. Out of this circumstance sprang seeds of dissension which threatened to destroy it.
First Rector Takes Charge
Early in 1881, while visiting his home at Pelham Priory, the Rev. Cornelius Winter Bolton was approached by his sister about assuming charge of the Mission in North Pelham. He accepted, and in December of that year became the church's first rector, holding that office for 25 years.
Shortly after his installation he purchased an acre of ground on Second Avenue and Second Street and built the present rectory upon it, and in 1892 he built the Gothic stone church -- both still in use. Within seven years he cleared the parish of its debt.
The church was consecrated in 1899 with imposing ceremonies on Mr. Bolton's eightieth birthday by the Right Rev. Henry Codman Potter, then Bishop of New York.
In August, 1906, the Rev. Mr. Bolton died at the age of eighty-seven. In his later years he had as his assistant the Rev. Edwin B. Rice of Mount Vernon, who was employed during the week at the Church Mission's House in New York City.
Until 1907, the parish existed as an 'assisted parish,' receiving financial aid from the diocese. In 1907, when the present rector, the Rev. Herbert H. Brown, was installed, it was made an independent parish at his request.
Rapid Growth Shown
Within five years, the membership of the church and Sunday School was doubled, all debts were paid and a mortgage of $2,000 on the rectory liquidated.
A new choir room was built in the basement of the church to accommodate the first vested choir to sing there. Two tennis courts also were built at this time.
In 1920, a serious movement was started to remove the church to a more central location in the township. The matter had been previously discussed by some members but nothing had come of the discussion. Now, however, it was strongly felt that the influence of the church was being retarded by being on the extreme western line of the village.
A new parish house was urgently needed, since the old building on Fourth Avenue was utterly inadequate, as well as being a distance from the church. Enlargement of the church itself also was involved. All pews were rented and there was a waiting list. Because of this the vestry purchased a new site in 1921, costing about $22,000 and located centrally on Fifth and Harmon Avenues, with the intention of erecting a complete set of buildings there eventually.
The first unit erected was the parish house in field stone at a cost of $117,000, considered one of the most attractive in Westchester County. It is in this building that all social activities of the parish are held.
It is the intention of the vestrymen, when conditions warrant, to sell the present church edifice and rectory and erect new buildings on the new site.
There are more than 300 names on the list of communicants and about 150 members enlisted in the Sunday School.
Church organizations include the Layman's Association, Women's Auxiliary, Parish Guild, the Circle, Young People's Society and Badminton Club."
Source: NEWS FROM PELHAM TOWN AND THE VILLAGES -- Redeemer Church, Founded In Loft In 1859, Now Has 300 Members, 6 Parish Societies, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Aug. 26, 1940, p. 14, cols. 1-3.
The following two photographs accompanied the above-quoted text:
"Pelhamville Dedicates New House of Worship
(Reprinted From The Daily Argus of Feb. 7, 1893)
The Parishioners of the Church of the Redeemer at Pelhamville had the satisfaction of witnessing today the dedication of their new house of worship by the Rt. Rev. Henry C. Potter, of New York, with appropriate ceremonies.
The Bishop was assisted in the dedicatory exercises by the Rev. E. N. Potter, S.T.D., LL.D., D.C.L., President of Hobart College, Geneva, N.Y., Rev. Mr. Drissler, Rev. Alexander Hamilton of Norwalk, Conn., Archdeacon Van Kleeck, of White Plains, and Rev. John Bolton. There was present from this city the Rev. S. F. Holmes, late of Trinity Church, Rev. F. M. S. Taylor of the Church of the Ascension, Rev. Dr. E. T. Hiscox and the Rev. Charles S. Todd of the Baptist persuasion.
A history of the Parish in brief is as follows: In 1859-60 Miss Nanette Bolton, of Pelham Priory, established a Sunday School in the then hamlet which may properly be termed the nucleus of the present thriving congregation. For a time there were temporary meeting places: the railroad station, a carpenter shop and the school house sheltering those who sought religious instruction. The Rev. Mr. Lyle and Mr. Schuyler of Christ Church, Pelham, subsequently secured the present site on Fourth Avenue. In 1870 it assumed full growth and in February 1872, it dropped its 'mission' title and assumed that of the Church of the Redeemer.
The pastor, the Rev. C. Winter Bolton, informed a representative of The Argus that the church was in a very prosperous condition, 47 families belonging to the church, with 57 communicants and a Sunday school of over 50 children."
Source: Pelhamville Dedicates New House of Worship -- Looking Backward, The Daily Argus, Feb. 6, 1943, p. 4, cols. 4-6 (Reprinted from The Daily Argus of Feb. 7, 1893).
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