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.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Early History of Christ Church from Newspaper Article Published in 1896

On July 19, 1896, the New York Times published a lovely article about Christ Church in Pelham Manor.  The article appeared at an important time in the history of the church as it was transforming from a sleepy country church to an even more vibrant institution serving a community that was evolving into a family community led by commuters who worked in New York City but lived in Pelham Manor.  Indeed, the article noted that the "spirit of change of late years has reached Christ Church, much to the regret of some by whom the ideas of its founders are still dearly cherished."

In addition to providing information about the early history of the church, the article provides an important glimpse of what the church was like and what sorts of changes it was experiencing in 1896.  The article also provides what may be one more important clue regarding an interesting aspect of the history of the church regarding the creation of stained glass windows by William Jay Bolton.

In recent years there has been some confusion regarding precisely where a small cottage owned by the Bolton Family stood that was used by William Jay Bolton as a stained glass studio.  In 1935, Reginald Pelham Bolton authored an article with the best description of the location of the cottage.  He wrote:  

"The little building is now standing in which this remarkable work was conducted.  It is a small frame cottage on the east side of Pelham (or 'Shore') Road, about 400 feet north of its intersection with Pelhamdale avenue, within easy walking distance of the Priory.  It is built of materials which were in use about the beginning of the nineteenth century, and originally comprised only a living room, an attic bedroom, and a cellar.  At some early period of its existence another room was added at the rear of the building, provided with four windows and a side door, and connected by a doorway into the cottage cellar.  This room was the studio-workshop of William Jay Bolton.  The base of the chimney of the cottage is conveniently located in this room, and there is a space in front of the chimney where the footing or base of the 'muffle,' or melting furnace, can be traced on the floor. In the soil of the garden space around the workshop one may find fragments of the colored glass produced in the building."

Source:  Bolton, Reginald Pelham, WILLIAM JAY BOLTON - The Most Talented Member of the Gifted Bolton Family, The Pelham Sun, Apr. 12, 1935, p. 10, cols. 1-5 (reprinted through the courtesy of the Westchester County Historical Society).  I have written about the location of this cottage before.  See Fri., May 08, 2015:  More About William Jay Bolton of Pelham: Creator of First Figured Stained Glass Windows in America; Wed., Sep. 24, 2014:  Where Was the Bolton Family Cottage Where Stained Glass Windows Were Created?

Bolton Cottage Used by William Jay Bolton as a Stained Glass
Studio During the Mid-19th Century, Since Razed. Source:
Courtesy of the Office of the Historian of the Town of Pelham.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

The New York Times article published in 1896 provides an additional clue regarding the location of the cottage.  According to the article, the cottage was located in a portion of New Rochelle just beyond the Pelham Manor border once known as "Deveau Town."  This would be completely consistent with the description by Reginald Pelham Bolton quoted above saying the cottage was on the east side of Pelham Road (known as Shore Road within Pelham) about 400 feet north of the intersection of Pelhamdale Avenue and Shore Road.

The 1896 article is well worth a read by all who love Pelham history.

History of Westchester County.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Bolton's History of Westchester County.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Christ Church a Good Example of Early English Architecture -- Washington Irving Helped Place the Bricks in its Walls -- Its Stained-Glass Windows the First of Their Kind to be Manufactured in America.

PELHAM MANOR, N. Y., July 18. -- It is but little over half a century since Christ Protestant Episcopal Church was built, although from its massive, ivy-grown walls and quaint architecture one might imagine that it had stood 200 years or more.

Christ Church is at the junction of the Shore Road and Pelhamdale Avenue, a beautiful street leading past the old priory to the railway station.  The surroundings appear wild and romantic, and the effect made by the little church, with its chapel and parish house nestling among the trees, is extremely picturesque.

Christ Church was founded by the Rev. Robert Bolton of Savannah, Ga.  The church that was nearest to the locality over fifty years ago was over two miles away.  Meetings were first held at the priory, now owned by Mrs. Frederick Allen, who received it as a gift from her mother, the Duchess de Dino, to whom it was sold by Miss Adele Bolton.

The Rev. Mr. Bolton also built the present church edifice, and afterward deeded it to a parochial corporation.  

The first Wardens of Christ Church were Richard Morris and Henry Grenzaback [sic].  The Vestrymen were Isaac Roosevelt, George F. Mills, John Bolton, William J. Bolton, Peter V. King, Jacob Le Roy, Cornelius Winter Bolton, and Robert Bolton, Jr.

Much of the work of building and decorating the little church was done by the Rev. Robert Bolton and his brothers.  The beautiful windows of stained glass in the chancel, representing the adoration of the Magi, and the two small windows at the sides, patterned after windows in Salisbury Cathedral, were made in the little hamlet called Deveau Town.  They are said to be the first stained-glass windows that were manufactured in America.  They were done at the glassworks of the Rev. William Jay Bolton and the Rev. John Bolton.

The Boltons made the pulpit with a big sounding board and a communion table that took the place of an altar.  They even carved the corbels at the foot of the arches that support the roof.

The structure was built in the purest gothic style.  It is said to be similar to small country churches, to be found in certain parts of England.  The seating capacity is rather less than 200.

The transept is private property.  The end on the right is owned by the Rev. Robert Bolton's daughter, Miss Adele Bolton.  In it is the old communion table.  The other end of the transept is owned by the De Luze family.  The transept windows bear the Bolton coat of arms.

Along the walls are several memorial tablets for Boltons, Schuylers, and members of other prominent families.  There is also a tablet to Ann Griffin, that credits her with being a faithful and devoted nurse.

The church is quite unlike any other in Westchester County, or, for that matter, probably, in the United States.

The old style of architecture has been so carefully followed that it is difficult to realize that it is a comparatively modern structure.  Its picturesque features are only equaled by those of the priory that stands far back from the road in heavily wooded grounds that hide it from the view of passers by.

Additional interest is attached to Christ Church and the priory from the fact that the place was dear to Washington Irving.  He used to visit the Boltons and took a keen interest in the building of the quaint church, and assisted in the work by offering valuable suggestions.

He put in place the bricks over the doorway of the priory that bear the date 1838.  His visits to Pelham were happy occasions for the children, and are still vividly remembered by persons now living, who met him there.

Beside the church is a little memorial chapel to Miss Nanette Bolton, Principal of the Priory School, that was very famous in its day.  The chapel was built by persons graduated from the school.  It corresponds in style to the church edifice.  It is now used by the Sunday School of the parish.  The font in the church is also a memorial to Miss Bolton.  It was the gift of the Duchess de Dino.

The parish also owns a building fronting on the Shore Road, that was built originally for a parochial school that was supported by the Boltons.  It was afterward made into a rectory, and is now used as a parish house.  The entrance is by a heavily studded door under a Norman arch, that is considered a fine example of its kind.

When the church was founded the country seats in Pelham Bay Park were tenanted.  Among the communicants were Lorillards, Edgars, Le Roys, Bartows, Brinkerhoffs, Kings, and Roosevelts.

The spirit of change of late years has reached Christ Church, much to the regret of some by whom the ideas of its founders are still dearly cherished.  The sounding board has been removed from the pulpit, and an altar has taken the place of the little communion table.  A rectory has been purchased across the road fromm the church, and other innovations have been made from time to time.

The Rev. Charles Higbee, who was the active rector of the church for twenty years, and is now rector emeritus, gave up the pastorate in 1893, and is now traveling in Europe.  Te. Rev. A. F. Tenney is the present rector.

Most of the old families that once worshipped in the church are gone, and in their place has come a new element, composed of families attracted to the locality by its beauty and exclusiveness.  

The church possesses communion plate given by Mrs. C. L. Spencer, daughter of Peter Lorillard, and a chalice given by Georgianna C. Pell, daughter of Duncan C. Pell.  The altar and cross are the gifts of Stephen Van Cortlandt.  The bell, in a little turret over the front gable, was the gift of Lydig Suydam.  The bell hangs exposed to the weather, and it is rung by a cord that goes down through a hole in the roof.  The bell and turret are in themselves characteristic and distinguishing features of the church."

Source:  PELHAM MANOR'S CHURCH -- QUAINT EDIFICE THAT WAS BUILT BY THE REV. ROBERT BOLTON, N.Y. Times, Jul. 19, 1896, p. 16, col. 5 (NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).

*          *          *          *          *

I have written about the history of Christ Church, an institution the history of which is integrally intertwined with that of the Priory, on numerous occasions.  Below are a few of the many articles on the topic.

Thu., Dec. 31, 2015:  Laying of the Cornerstone of the Parish House at Christ Church on June 10, 1928.

Thu., Nov. 12, 2015:  Charles Higbee, Eighth Rector of Christ Church in Pelham Manor, 1871-1893.

Tue., Oct. 27, 2015:  The Ghostly Gardener of Bolton Priory: A Pelham Apparition.

Tue., Oct. 20, 2015:  Address Delivered by Reverend Robert Bolton on April 28, 1843 at the Laying of the Foundation Stone of Christ Church.

Thu., Oct. 15, 2015:  The Creation of Christ Church and its Consecration on September 15, 1843.  

Tue., Sep. 29, 2015:  Christ Church's 80th Anniversary Sermon by Rev. J. McVickar Haight on November 18, 1923.

Fri., Nov. 21, 2014:  Another Advertisement for Fair Held in 1842 to Fund Construction of Christ Church.

Fri., Aug. 29, 2014:  Announcement of Two-Day Fair in Pelham in 1842 to Raise Money to Build Christ Church.

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

Fri., Dec. 25, 2009:  1906 Christmas Day Celebration at Christ Church in Pelham.

Fri., Aug. 14, 2009:  The Consecration of the Nanette Bolton Memorial Chapel at Christ Church in Pelham Manor on April 28, 1887.  

I also have written extensively about members of the Bolton Family and the home they built known as the Priory, Bolton Priory, and Pelham Priory.  Seee.g.:  

Mon., Apr. 04, 2016:  Granddaughter of Robert Bolton Remembered a Cave and Native American Remains on the Priory Estate.

Thu., Mar. 31, 2016:  Adele Bolton, a Founder of Grace Episcopal Church and Administator of the Priory School for Girls.

Fri., May 08, 2015:  More About William Jay Bolton of Pelham: Creator of First Figured Stained Glass Windows in America

Fri., Mar. 20, 2015:  Fire in 1932 Devastated the Bolton Priory in Pelham Manor.

Tue., Jun. 23, 2015:  Nanette Bolton of the Priory School for Girls in Pelham Manor.

Thu., Oct. 02, 2014:  Brief History of Grace Church on City Island in the Town of Pelham Published in 1886.

Wed., Sep. 24, 2014:  Where Was the Bolton Family Cottage Where Stained Glass Windows Were Created?

Thu., Sep. 04, 2014:  The Closing of the Pelham Priory School for Girls in 1882 and the Departure of Head Mistress Nanette Bolton for Europe.

Fri., Aug. 29, 2014:  Announcement of Two-Day Fair in Pelham in 1842 to Raise Money to Build Christ Church.

Wed., May 14, 2014:  Noted American Novelist Margaret Deland Attended Bolton Priory School in Pelham Manor

Thu., Sep. 03, 2009:  Advertisement for the Pelham Priory School Published in 1881

Thu., Aug. 13, 2009:  History of Bolton Priory Published in 1910.

Tue., Jan. 20, 2009:  An Account of the Rev. J. L. Ver Mehr Regarding His Brief Stint as an Instructor of French and Italian at Pelham Priory in 1843

Fri., Mar. 2, 2007:  A Brief Account by American Author Margaret Deland of Her Education at Pelham Priory in the 19th Century.

Thu., Dec. 14, 2006:  Items from Bolton Priory in the Collections of The Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture, The New-York Historical Society.

Thu., Nov. 16, 2006:  Robert Bolton, Jr.'s Inscription to His Father Inside Book He Authored That Was Published in 1855.

Fri., Jul. 28, 2006: Image of Bolton Priory in the Town of Pelham Published in an 1859 Treatise on Landscape Gardening.

Wed., Jul. 26, 2006:  A Brief Account of Visits to Bolton Priory in the Early 1880s.

Wed., July 5, 2006: Bricks Laid by Washington Irving and Ivy from Kenilworth Castle at the Bolton Priory in Pelham Manor

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

Wed., March 1, 2006: 1909 Real Estate Advertisement Showing Bolton Priory

Wed., Feb. 22, 2006: Doll Depicting Nanette Bolton in the Collection of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham

Wed., Dec. 7, 2005: The Sale and Subdivision of the Bolton Priory Estate in the 1950s

Tue., Nov. 29, 2005: An Early, Interesting Photograph of Bolton Priory in the Village of Pelham Manor

Wed., Sep. 21, 2005: The Nanette Bolton Memorial Chapel Building at Christ Church in Pelham Manor

Tue., Aug. 23, 2005: Society Scandal: The "Strange" Story of Mrs. Adele Livingston Stevens Who Acquired the Bolton Priory in Pelham Manor

Wed., Jul. 13, 2005: 11 Priory Lane: The Rose Cottage

Fri., Jun. 10, 2005: Pelham's Most Magnificent Wedding Gift: The Bolton Priory

Tue., May 3, 2005: Colonel Frederick Hobbes Allen, An Owner of Bolton Priory in Pelham Manor

Thu., Apr. 7, 2005: Another Volume of William Jay Bolton's Sketches and Ruminations Located?

Mon., Apr. 4, 2005: Art and Poetry of William Jay Bolton of Bolton Priory in Pelham

See also Bell, Blake A., A Brief History of Bolton Priory in Pelham Manor, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No., 16, Apr. 16, 2004, p. 8, col. 2.

Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.

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