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.

Monday, July 02, 2018

1922 Cornerstone Laying of Today's Community Church of the Pelhams in Pelhamwood

It was a ceremony rich with tradition held on what was once the site of the "Old Frog Pond" at the corner of today's Washington and Highbrook Avenues.  The objective was to lay the cornerstone of the Congregational Christian Church, known today as the Community Church of the Pelhams located in Pelhamwood.

The ceremony was held on June 11, 1922.  The lovely half-timbered church was partially built when a large crowd gathered on a hot day to celebrate the event.  

The cornerstone used was not freshly-hewn.  Rather, it once had served as the cornerstone of another significant building.  It was the original corner stone of the Trinity Congregational Church built at 176th Street and Washington Avenue in New York City.  The stone was saved after that church building was "given up for public school purposes, on account of the tremendous change in the character of the population surrounding the church building."  

Even more interestingly, the original contents of the cornerstone laid in 1887 were kept within the stone.  The church added additional contents to the stone related to the Pelham Church.

I have written before about the history of today's Community Church of the Pelhams.  The Church is located at 448 Washington Avenue in a lovely part of Pelham known as Pelhamwood.  Originally part of the Congregational Christian Churches, it is now part of The United Church of Christ that was created in 1957 when the Congregational Christian Churches merged with the Evangelical and Reformed Churches.  For more about the history of the church, see, e.g.:

Tue., Mar. 04, 2014:  Information About the Earliest Years of Today's Community Church of the Pelhams.

Sat., Jan. 25, 2014:  Putting the Finishing Touches on the Lovely New Church in Pelhamwood in 1923.

Today's Historic Pelham Blog article transcribes an article that described the events of the day during the cornerstone laying ceremony.  It also includes immediately below a depiction of the church building as it originally was planned that was published with the article.

"To be new church at Pelhamwood; cornerstone laid yesterday."
Depiction of Today's Community Church of the Pelhams as it
was Originally Planned.  Source:  CORNER STONE OF PELHAM
CHURCH LAID YESTERDAYThe Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY],
Jun. 12, 1922, No. 9921, p. 7, cols. 3-4.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *          *          *


Pelham, June 12. -- The cornerstone of the new Congregational church of the Pelhams was laid successfully yesterday.  The corner of Washington and Highbrook avenues, Pelhamwood, witnessed a unique gathering.  On the site of the old frog pond there is arising a beautiful gothic stone and one-half timbered church edifice.  A splendid audience, despite the heat of the day and the gathering clouds at sunset, witnessed the dignified and highly edifying and inspirational ceremony of the laying of the corner stone of the progressive new liberal church of which the Rev. Dr. Wm. Milton Hess is pastor.

The day was a red letter day in the young history of the new church.  

The out-door service began with the singing of the fine old Pilgrim Father hymn, 'O God, Beneath Thy Guiding Hand, Our Exiled Fathers Crossed the Sea.'  This was followed by the innovation [sic] by Rev. Ralph L. Peterson of the Bedford Park Congregational church, New York city.  Selections from the scriptures were read by Rev. Chas. Francis Potter, who lives in Pelham and who is building a new liberal church on 110th street, New York city.  A solo was next splendidly rendered by Mrs. Habert Smith, of Spokane, Wash.

Mr. Walter E. Hallett, of Bronxville, the deputy comptroller of the Bank for Savings, and a former president of the board of trustees of the Trinity Congregational church, New York city, read an interesting historical record of the church.  He spoke of the wonderfully equipped church plant at 176th street and Washington avenue, New York city, that had to be given up for public school purposes, on account of the tremendous change in the character of the population surrounding the church building.  He spoke very highly of Dr. Hess as minister and church builder.

He was followed by Mr. John Oscar Ball, president of the board of trustees of the new church.  Mr. Ball resides in Pelhamwood, and he bespoke much interest in the new church.  Its progressiveness greatly appealed to him, he said.  He prophesied the church would fill a greatly needed want.  He was enthusiastic about its future; also highly complimenting Dr. Hess.

Brief addresses followed by Dr. James Robert Smith, secretary Congregational church building society, who promised the financial aid of this society later on; by Rev. Ernest M. Holliday, general secretary, Congregational church extension boards, and by Rev. Dr. Chas. W. Shelton, secretary Congregational church extension society.

The Rev. Dr. Wm. Milton Hess then announced the contents of the box in the corner stone.  The old contents, put in when Rev. Dr. Lyman Abbott officiated at the laying of the corner stone originally in 1887 in New York city, and the new contents concerning the removal to Pelhamwood, were interestingly described.  Following a greeting by Walter A. Vonderlieth, of the Pelhamwood association and a trustee of North Pelham, the corner stone was laid by Rev. Dr. Wm. E. Stevens, 33d Mason, past grand master and chaplain of the grand lodge of Masons, state of New York.

A hymn was sung before and after he officiated.

The prayer was offered by Rev. Dr. Charles H. Richards, former secretary and now editorial secretary of the Congregational church building society.

Just as the corner stone was laid and after the congregation had gotten into the lower hall of the church building, the terrific wind and rain storm burst, reminding one of the Prophet Elijah's experience in King's 1:18.  God was in the 'Still Small Voice' of conscience as the Rev. Dr. Newell Dwight Hillis, of Henry Ward Beecher's Plymouth church, Brooklyn, held the audience spell-bound for another half hour.  

It was a magnificent oration, and it was most fittingly given by Dr. Hillis, the successor of Dr. Lyman Abbott, who made the chief speech at the laying of the identical corner stone, 35 years ago, at 176th street and Washington avenue, New York city.

A splendid God-filled letter from Miss Villa Faulkner Page, leader of the fellowship of the life more abundant of Brooklyn and Manhattan, was next read.  This was followed by a brief greeting from Mary E. T. Chapin, of New York city, of the International New Thought society.  Mrs. Chapin was much appreciated.

The doxology was followed by the benediction given by Rev. Carl S. Weist, of the First Congregational church of Mount Vernon.  

The whole affair was a brilliant success, and many favorable comments were made by those who were fortunate enough to witness the event."

Source:  CORNER STONE OF PELHAM CHURCH LAID YESTERDAY, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Jun. 12, 1922, No. 9921, p. 7, cols. 3-4.

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