Central Church: Presbyterian


(Pearl Street-West Fiftieth Street)
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The genesis of Central Church was a Sabbath morning service conducted in Central School House (hence the name) on Mulberry Street, March 4, 1820, at which eight persons, including the minister, Rev. William Patton, were present.

In his home a church was organized January 8, 1821, with a membership of five; three men and two women. The number increased rapidly and the congregation determined to build a church. A site at 408 Broome Street, between Marion and Elm streets (now Centre and Lafayette), was selected, and on it an edifice was erected and dedicated May 7, 1822. It had a tall spire with a clock.

In these early days the seats were benches, but were rented as though they were pews. According to the records, Bench 1 was occupied by Isaac B. Crane, who paid an annual rental of $4. Eleanor Bemai occupied the highest priced bench in the house, No. 12, paying $5.33 annually.

The church grew apace. At the end of the first pastorate twelve years later, more than 1,000 persons had been added to the church roll. IN 1829 the church reported that it had held a revival for sixteen months with continuous meetings. By the middle of the century, the general exodus of population northward was weakening all downtown congregations, hence, in the interest of both organizations, the Pearl Street Church was merged with the Central Church February 5, 1853.

The Pearl Street Church began in 1797 as the Second Associate Reformed Church, but was not formally organized until 1804. It had a substantial house of worship at 540 Pearl Street. For a few years it maintained a collegiate organization with the Scotch Church on Cedar Street, then the First Associate Reformed Church. In 1822 it was received into the Presbytery with others of the Associate Reformed body.

When first built the Pearl Street Church was in the suburbs of the city. To the east of the building the ground was very low, and Fresh Water Pond, as it was called, came almost to the spot where it stood. Contemporary records describe the bridges over the marsh by which those who came to church from the easterly part of the town were obliged to cross. In 1837 the original building was destroyed by fire, but rebuilt on the same site.

In 1854 the Central Church building housing the combined congregations, was destroyed by fire, but a new one was erected and opened for worship the following year. In 1864 the building was sold, and the congregation worshipped in Lyric Hall on West 47th Street.

In 1866 a merger was arranged whereby the West Fiftieth Street Church joined the Central Church and the united congregations met in its building on Fiftieth Street between Broadway and eighth Avenue. This church had been organized in 1863.

In 1869 ground was bought at 212 West 57th Street, between Broadway and Seventh Ave, and adjoining lots going through to 209 West 56th Street. A chapel was first erected on 56th Street, and the church was not ready for worship on the 57th Street plot until 1876. This building was the former edifice of the Fifth Avenue Church at 19th Street, which was generously given to the Central Church and removed to this site.

In 1915 the Central Church bought the property of the Madison Avenue Reformed Church at the northeast corner of Madison Avenue and 57th Street, when this church was dissolved. It had been organized as the Franklin Street Dutch Church in 1808.

In 1928 this building was sold and the church building at the southeast corner of Park Avenue and 64th Street was bought from the Baptist congregation, which, under the leadership of Dr. Fosdick, was then building what became known as the Riverside Church. As occupancy could not be given at Park Avenue until September, 1929, services were held for a year at the Plaza Hotel.

In 1880 the Central Church assumed responsibility for the mission Sunday School, which became Mizpahy Chapel, and now is Trinity Church.

The ministers of Central Church; William Patton, 1821-34; William Adams, 1834-53; Artemus Augustus Wood, 1853-60; James Blair Dunn, 1864-68; James D. Wilson, 1869-86; Wilton Merle-Smith, 1889-1920; Dwight Witherspoon Wylie, 1920-35; Theodore C. Speers, 1936-.

The ministers of Pearl Street Church: Robert Forrest, 1804-11; John X. Clarke, 1811-18; William W. Phillips, 1818-26; Walter Monteith, 1826-29; Benjamin H. Rice, 1829-33; Henry A. Rowland, 1834-43; Charles H. Read, 1843-49; Artemas A. Wood, 1849-53.

The minister of West Fiftieth Street Church: Samuel B. Bell, 1863-66.

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Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Central Church: Presbyterian
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From my collection of books: The Presbyterian Church in New York City by Theodore Fiske Savage; published by The Presbytery of New York 1949
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