Fifth Avenue Church: Presbyterian

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The Fifth Avenue Church was started by a group of Presbyterians who were not satisfied with the collegiate arrangement which was binding together the different Presbyterian congregations of that time, and who were convinced that the growing city would sustain another Presbyterian Church. In January 1807 they opened a subscription list for the purpose of securing funds.

The energetic committee secured the necessary underwriting, bought a site on the north side of Cedar Street between William and Nassau Streets and erected a house of worship. They then proceeded to sell the pews and were so successful that they not only were able to repay in full all the original subscribers, but paid interest as well. There was no debt, and no outside assistance was asked.

On June 28, 1808 this congregation was received under the care of the Presbytery of New York and officially organized on November 8th, as The Presbyterian Church in Cedar Street, with twenty-eight members.

A quarter of a century later the migration of people from downtown New York suggested a change of location, and a site was secured at the southeast corner of Duane and Church Streets. This building was opened for worship in 1836 and the name of the church changed to The Presbyterian Church in Duane Street.

The next move was tot he southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and Nineteenth Street, where a new and larger church was dedicated in April 1852, and the church was known as the Fifth Avenue Church, corner of Nineteenth Street.

The present church building at the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 55th Street was dedicated May 9, 1875, and the church took its present name. The large parish house, built with funds contributed by Mrs. Stephen V. Harkness, was dedicated in 1925.

During this long history, this church has grown in strength and influence and has made outstanding contributions to the life of the city, and to the Presbyterian Church in the entire country. It has had a large part in the organization and support of our Mission Boards, our Theological Seminaries, and various benevolent and educational enterprises of New York City. Its ministers have from the beginning been great leaders in the church and in the community;. Particularly notable was the ministry of Dr. John Hall for more than thirty years, and this was often referred to as "the cathedral church of Presbyterianism."

This church has from early days been interested in missionary operations in other sections of the city, and has had a series of Mission Chapels under its care.

The Duane Street Mission, as it was first called, was organized when the church was in Duane Street. In 1852 it was transferred to Canal and Varick Streets, and in 1863 to 7-9 King Street. Here a new chapel was erected in 1872, and the work became known as the Alexander Mission. It was discontinued in 1913. The ministers: Samuel Ives Curtiss, 1869-72; Henry A. Davenport, 1873-78; Hugh Pritchard, 1880-1913.

The Seventh Avenue Chapel, on the west side of that avenue, south of 18th Street, listed as number 107 and also as 125, was acquired by the Fifth Avenue Church about 1862. From 1865 to 1874 this was organized as the Alexander Church. From 1889 the work was organized as the Chalmers Church, which in 1892 was merged with the Thirteenth Street Church (see Village Church) and the building was sold.

The Romeyn Chapel was organized as a Sunday School in 1858 in a loft over a blacksmith shop at 416 East 14th Street. Later accommodations were secured in the public school building at 14th Street near First Avenue and over eight hundred children were enrolled.

In 1878 a building was purchased from St. George's Church at 420 East 14th Street and the name of Romeyn Chapel was given to it. In 1904 the work was merged into the Fourteenth Street Church. The ministers: George U. Wenner, 1868-69; Eugene Mapes, 1879-80; George Van Deurs, 1880-82; Franklin B. Dwight, 1883-86; Alexander H. McKinney, 1886-87; Thomas Atkinson, 1887-89; Herbert M. Andrews, 1889-90; Thomas Douglass, 1890-93; John B. Dawson, 1896-97; John C. Neill, 1898-99; William A. McKenzie, 1900-04.

The John Hall Memorial Chapel, begun in 1889, has become the John Hall Memorial Church.

For a number of years a Chinese Sunday School was maintained at 9 East 59th Street which in 1909 was merged with what became the First Chinese Church at 225 East 31st Street.

The ministers: John Brodhead Romeyn, 1808-25; Cyrus Mason, 1826-35; George Potts, 1836-44; James W. Alexander, 1844-59; Nathan L. Rice, 1861-67; Hohn Hall, 1867-96; George T. Purves, 1900-01; J. Ross Stevenson, 1902-09; John Henry Jowett, 1911-18; John Kelman, 1919-24; Henry Howard, 1926-33; Minot C. Morgan, 1926-33; John Sutherland Bonnell, 1935_.

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Website: The History
Article Name: Fifth Avenue 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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