The Churches of Woodhaven-Ozone Park: A Brief Sketch

The First Congregational Church of Woodhaven

Incorporated on October 21, 1856 by some of the original settlers of the village: Phineas Walker, james Wiswell, Francis Allyn, Daniel Bergen, Henry G. Lott and Elisha U. Jones, John R. Pitkin donated two lots for a chapel. On Sunday, Sept. 14 1862 the chapel, 40x22 and costing about $855, was dedicated. At first it was used by Congregationalists in the morning and Presbyterians in the afternoon. This did not work out well and the Congregationalists in 1863 decided to build their own church. John R. Pitkin contributed five lots valued at $500, and a new church was built in April 1866 at a cost of $3200 on the east side of 94th Street and south of 97th Ave.

In October 1888 the church was moved off its old site and a large new memorial church costing $10,000 was erected on the site in memory of Alfred Grosjean, the son of Florian Grosjean. Mr. Wolcott H. Pitkin, one of the sons of John R. Pitkin, donated two lots so that the memorial church could be doubled in size.

The Methodist Protestant Church

In Aqueduct on Centreville Avenue at 135th Avenue was founded in 1857. It was always very small, catering to the widely-scattered farm folk living near Old South Road. Its congregation never exceeded 50 members and in some years this shrank to 15. Little is known of this church. There is one newspaper notice: "The Rev. Mr. Holberg, pastor of the Methodist Protestant church at South Woodhaven, will not remain there another year. He has not received $300 a year and has had to use his former savings to keep himself from starving. The church was $1700 in debt when he took charge; now the debt is $125. In annual conference at Westville last week, he gave notice that he must have a church with the ability to support himself or he would decline an appointment."

Woodhaven First Presbyterian

On Dec. 6, 1858 A Dutch Reformed church was organized by some of the old Dutch-descended families: the names Lott, Bergen and Wyckoff appear among the 17 charter members. In 1861 John R. Pitkin donated two lots and in October of that year, the Woodhaven Chapel Association was formed. The building was shared with the Congregationalists at first but in 1863 they pulled out, and in 1866 the Association affiliated with the Presbyterians. The Association erected a building on the east side of 94th Street at 101st Avenue.

St. Elizabeth's Roman Catholic:

The earliest Roman Catholics had formed a loose organization in November 1869 and Florian Grosjean presented them with a building lot on the south side of 95th Ave. between 86th and 87th Streets. For some reason this was never used. In 1873 Grosjean donated the present site on the south side of Atlantic Avenue between 84th and 85th Streets and erected a brick church at his own expense. Because the congregation was so small, the church was regarded by the diocese as a mission only; from newspapers we learn that the church was dedicated to St. Joseph and was irregularly served by a Fr. Francis Cannon. Between 1873 and 1877 the mission was served by the Fathers of mercy from St. Francis de Sales church in Brooklyn which itself underwent a name change in 1897 to Our Lady of Lourdes. From 1877 to 1885 St. Joseph's was served by priests from St. Monica's in Jamaica.

In April 1885 the church became a parish and Fr. Alois Steffen was assigned as pastor. He built a rectory behind the church, and more importantly, changed the parish name to St. Elizabeth's. (1888) in March 1886 Mr. Grosjean deeded to the bishop the church along with 8 lots for a payment of $3,800. Fr. Steffen bought the Woodhaven railroad station (built 1851) and converted it into a little school staffed by Dominican nuns.

In 1892 the church was converted into a two-story building, the lower floor to serve as a school with four classrooms and the upper floor as a church. By the late 1890's the church was too small for the growing population and the building was enlarged and rededicated on Nov. 19, 1899. The rectory was enlarged in 1901; a large new brick school was built in 1913. The final expansion was the present greatly enlarged church, first used on Christmas Day 1930. It seats 500 and cost $150,000.

The church continued to grow in the 1930's, however in 1952-3 the basement of the church was converted into an auxiliary church. Then in 1962, on property opposite the 1913 school, a new 16 classroom school was built, costing $600,000.

Emanuael German Evangelical

The church began in 1879 when a son of Pitkin, Wolcott H. Pitkin, conveyed two lots on 101st Avenue between 92nd and 93rd Streets to the church for $1. Matthew I. Page, the Woodhaven builder, got the contract to build a church for $1700. The cornerstone was laid on Nov. 9, 1879 and the church building was erected during November and December 1879: dedication took place on Feb. 16, 1880. When a bell was hung in the steeple, its weight caused the roof to leak and the steeple had to be rebuilt (1888). Gas illumination supplanted the oil lamps in 1898. IN September 1910 a Sunday School hall was added to the church. In 1913 two lots on 93rd Street were bought and a parsonage was built, in July 1914. In 1927 English supplanted German in the Sunday services.

Christ Lutheran Church

On the southwest corner of 86th Street & 101st Avenue. Organized in 1880 as the "Evangelisch Lutherische Christus Gemeinde in Woodhaven." The first services were held in the home of Henry A. Baumann in December 1880. A frame building was erected in January 1881: in November 1884 the first church building was erected on the present site at a cost of $3300. A parsonage followed in 1886. In 1917, after serious damage to the church steeple, a new brick church was built at a cost of $42,000. The old parsonage was replaced in 1941 and the newest building is a parish center erected in 1954.

French Evangelical church

The build-up in the number of French-speaking Protestants at the Lalance & Grosjean factory created the impetus for a church ministry to these workers and their families. The Eglise Francaise Evangelique was organized in 1887. In the summer of 1890 a church was built on land donated by Florian Grosjean on the south side of 95th Ave. between 96th and 97th Streets. The building was completed in August and a French minister, charles A. Lador, engaged. The two-room church was dedicated with ceremonies on Oct. 9, 1890. At the service that evening $3900 was raised which paid off all the debt of $3500, leaving the church free and clear the first day. In 1901 the church was raised and moved 8 1/2 feet to the east to permit the erection of a parsonage. Two years later an annex to the church was built for $703. As the area became English-speaking, membership dwindled from 300 to 20 in 1935. The church went out of existence about 1950.

Epiphany Episcopal Church

On the south side of 103rd Avenue between 103rd and 104th Streets. The church began in 1888 as a mission organized from the diocese in Garden City and the first service was held in a club house on 101st St. Ex-Gov. McCormick donated four lots on the corner of 103rd St. & 103rd Ave. In the same year and a church building was erected at a cost of $3500. The bishop consecrated the new structure in May 1889. A parish house was built in 1897. In December 1904 the status of Epiphany Episcopal was elevated by being legally incorporated as a parish. In 1905 a large 10-room house on a lot 50x100 was purchased for use as a parsonage. The parish sold this house in 1923 and built a new parish house and rectory in the same year and in 1929 a whole new church was built. On New Year's Eve in 1934 a disastrous fire gutted the new church and it had to be wholly rebuilt the following year.

Ozone Park First Methodist Episcopal

In 1891 the church was organized and erected a church on the northside of 103rd Avenue between 86th and 97th Streets. Ground was broken on Sunday, Sept. 20, 1891 for the church: the society had been worshipping a tent until then. The congregation rose from 80 at the beginning to 170 by the end of World War I.

Union Course Baptist church

In 1889 a small group of Baptists organized a Sunday School in a store on 88th Road which grew in 1890 into the Union Course Baptists church. Membership grew slowly and it was not until 1897 that a church edifice was begun on the northwest corner of 80th St. and 87th Avenue. The cornerstone was laid on Dec. 6, 1897. In March 1898 the wooden fram building with a capacity of 250 was completed at a cost of $3500. On Monday, April 4, 1898, the dedication of the new building was celebrated. The present building was erected in 1910.

First Methodist Episcopal Church of Woodhaven

The first pastor, Fred Gunton, gathered a flock here in 1891; the church was formally organized on March 25, 1892. On Sunday, Dec. 15, 1895 a church building was dedicated on the northwest corner of 80th Street and 89th Avenue. A second church on the same site was erected in 1914. A fire broke out on Nov. 11, 1920 leaving the church so badly damaged that it had to be rebuilt. In 1928 a building campaign undertook many improvements.

St. Matthew's Episcopal Church was organized in 1900 as a mission from the Church of the Resurrection in Richmond Hill. Worship was first conducted in a store on 91st St. A small frame church was built on the east side of 96th St. & 85th Road. Just before World War I the church was raised to the status of a parish. The congregation began with 50 members but by 1930 the number had reached 350. By 1926 the old church had become obsolete and in March 1927 ground was broken for a larger and more elaborate building in the Gothic style. The first services were held in the new church in December 1927.

St. Mary Gate of Heaven Roman Catholic

On the southeast corner of 103rd Street & 101st Avenue. The cornerstone was laid sun. July 9, 1905. The church began with 1200 communicants in 1905 but by 1930 the number had risen to about 6000. The church was served by the Monfort Fathers.

Nativity Roman Catholic

At 101-41 91st St. The church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary was founded as a parish for the Italian Catholics of Woodhaven and Ozone Park. The original church was on Rockaway Boulevard at 86th Street; the building was erected in 1906 and was first used for the Christmas service of that year. The building was dedicated and blessed by the bishop on June 2, 1907. The convent was finished in June 1907 and a school building 50x65, two stories and basement, was begun at the same time. In 1923 a new church was built on the north side of Rockaway Boulevard between 91st and 92nd Streets. About 500 members belonged to the parish at the time of its founding in 1907; there were 1500 in 1930.

St. Luke's Lutheran Church

In 1908 a group of Lutherans gathered in the home of John Striker on 76th Street & 86th Ave. and held the first service; two months later, the congregation organized in the hall of the Volunteer Fire Dept. on 78th Street where they continued to hold services for more than a year. A plot for a church was bought in 1909 and the foundation and basement were completed in 1910. Long years of fund raising finally resulted in the building of the church in 1928. The church grew from 50 in 1909 to over 500 by 1930.

St. Thomas the Apostle Roman Catholic Church

At 87-19 88th Avenue . In 1908 Father Andrew Klarmann, then pastor of St. Elizabeth's on Atlantic Avenue, was ordered by the bishop to establish a new parish. On April 1, 1908 he bought a parcel of 14 lots at 87th St., 88th Ave. & 88th St. for $8400. On Nov. 22, 1909 the cornerstone of the church was laid and on April 18, 1910 the structure was dedicated by the bishop. On July 1, 1910 St. Thomas' parish was formally established by the diocese and ceased to be a mission of St. Elizabeth's. The very large growth in membership in the parish eventually forced the building of the present large brick church which was dedicated on Oct. 7, 1923.

The parochial school opened in Sept. 1916 and eventually became so overcrowded that a second school building was erected in 1929. In 1927 a three-story convent was built for the teaching sisters. The most important change in recent years was the purchase of the former Roosevelt Theatre on Jamaica Avenue, which now serves as an auditorium and recreation building for the parish.

Christ Congregational Church

On June 16, 1907 some adults rented a store on 94th Street south of Jamaica Avenue for a church school. In 1910 a portable building, known as the Columbia Park chapel, was erected on the present site, the southeast corner of 91st Street & 85th Road. On Mar. 15, 1911 the church was organized. In 1928 the church building was repaired and a parish house erected. The church started with 125 members but by 1930 had grown to 500.

Forest Park Reformed Church

On the northeast corner of 85th Street and 86th Road. The church was organized in 1911 and opened in 1912. On Mar. 13, 1913 the 80 members of the Forest Park Presbyterian church united with the Reformed Dutch Church of East New York (founded in 1840) to form a new body called the Reformed Church of Forest Park. The church membership began with 240 in 1912, reached 401 by 1921 and 480 by 1930.

St. Stanislaus Polish Roman Catholic Church

Polish immigrants drifted into Woodhaven during the 1890s; by 1903, there was a small Polish community in Ozone Park. About 1905, St. John Cantius church in East New York established a mission church in Ozone Park in a store at 97th Ave. and in 87th Street. The bishop long discouraged the idea of ethnic parishes but in 1923 permission was won to set up St. Stanislaus parish in the old Nativity church building on 86th Street & Rockaway Blvd. The first service took place on Feb. 11, 1923. In 1925 the city began to take steps to widen Rockaway Blvd, and condemned part of the land. In 1925 a plot on 101st St. between 90th and 91st Streets was purchased for a school. The parish grew in the 1940s and 50s. In 1959 the church was found to be incapable of enlargement on the old foundations, so a new one was built in 1960 on the northeast corner of 102nd Ave. and 88th St. In 1966 the unsightly gas station alongside the church was demolished and made into a grotto.

Emanuel Evangelical Reformed Church

The church grew out of a mission from Richmond Hill. Ground was purchased on Woodhaven Blvd. & 89th Ave. and a portable chapel was placed on the lot. The cornerstone of the new church was laid in 1923 and the building was completed in 1924.

Website: The History
Article Name: The Churches of Woodhaven-Ozone Park: A Brief Sketch
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: The Story of Woodhaven and Ozone Park by Vincent F. Seyfried; Queens Community Series; 1985
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