Tompkins Avenue Congregational Church - Brooklyn, N.Y. (photo ca.1950: Brooklyn Daily Eagle; Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection)
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Tompkins Avenue Congregational Church

54 McDonough Street at Tompkins Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11216

Organ Specifications:
480 Tompkins Avenue at McDonough Street (1889-1942)
IV/46 Ernest M. Skinner Company, Op. 145 (1907)
• III/35s E. & G.G. Hook & Hastings, Op. 723 (1873) – moved
• Reuben Midmer & Sons
• Estey Organ Company – unknown location
69 McDonough Street, NW corner Tompkins Avenue (1873-1889)
• III/35s E. & G.G. Hook & Hastings, Op. 723 (1873)
           
1876 engraving of the first Tompkins Avenue Congregational Church - Brooklyn, NY  
Tompkins Avenue Presbyterian Church
 
The Tompkins Avenue Congregational Church was established in June 1875, and held its first worship services in a school house. A month later, the former Tompkins Avenue Presbyterian Church building, located on the corner of McDonough Street and Tompkins Avenue, became available due to foreclosure on its $61,000 mortgage, and was rented for the use of the new church. In March 1881, the society purchased the building at a cost of $40,000. Under the pastorate of the Rev. George F. Pentecost, D.D., the church membership had steadily grown to almost 1000. In 1887, the Rev. Dr. Robert R. Meredith of Boston was called to the pastorate, and by 1888 it became apparent that a larger church would be needed. A plot of land directly across the street from the old church, on the southwest corner of Tompkins Avenue and McDonough Street, was purchased for $26,000. Plans were drawn up for a new church which would be completed by January 1, 1889, cost $70,000, and seat over 2000 people.

The new brick and granite building, designed by George P. Chappel, was built in 1888-89 and dedicated on January 6, 1889. Occupying a ground plot of 135 feet by 205 feet, the Italianate building was more than 75 feet in height and featured an immense 140-foot-tall square tower, reminiscent of the campanile of St. Mark's in Venice. The vast auditorium was semi-circular with every seat facing the pulpit. The ceiling rose to 47 feet, and there were no columns to obstruct the view or interfere with the transmission of sound. The floor was level for 35 feet from the pulpit, and then will rise at the rate of one-third of an inch to the foot; the gallery will also incline to the front. The plain but substantial interior was finished in ash and mahogany and had a seating capacity of 2,084. Twenty-four of its pews were reserved for the children of the Brooklyn Orphan Asylum.

  Tompkins Avenue Congregational Church - Brooklyn, N.Y. (photo, ca.1939: courtesy Eric Birk)
When the new building was opened, Tompkins Avenue Congregational Church boasted the largest church structure as well as the second largest Church membership of its denomination in the country. The congregation continued to grow, eventually numbering 2,440 members. It was often referred to as "Dr. Meredith's Church," after its well-known preacher, The Rev. Dr. Robert R. Meredith.

The old church was used for a time for some of the departments of the large Sunday school. Some of the progressive members wished to remodel the building as a clubhouse containing a commodious lecture hall, reading room, library, billiard room, bowling alleys, gymnasium, etc. However, in June 1889 the old church was sold for $43,000 to the newly established St. Matthew's Protestant Episcopal Church. At a later time the building was acquired by the Stuyvesant Heights Christian Center.

During the 1920s, wealthy residents left the community for less dense areas. Within a few years, the neighborhood demographics included Scandinavians, Irish, Italians, Russians, West Indians and Jews, along with an influx of Blacks from the South and the West Indies. With the opening of the A train in 1936, many Blacks living in overcrowded Harlem were attracted to Brooklyn. Many of the area’s White residents moved to new affordable homes in the suburbs and other sections of Brooklyn. The 1930s and 1940s marked a period of financial and physical decline in the neighborhood, and a large ghetto developed.

In 1942, Tompkins Avenue Congregational Church merged with and moved to the Flatbush Congregational Church, located at 19th Street and Dorchester, forming the Flatbush-Tompkins Congregational Church. The membership of the merged churches was 4,100, making it the largest Congregational Church in the United States at the time. The Tompkins Avenue building was then acquired by the First A.M.E. Zion Church.
         
  Ernest M. Skinner Organ, Op. 145 (1907) at Tompkins Avenue Congregational Church - Brooklyn, N.Y. (photo: Dave Schutt)
  Photo: Dave Schutt
Ernest M. Skinner Company
Boston, Mass. –Opus 145 (1907)
Electro-pneumatic action
4 manuals, 56 registers, 43 stops, 46 ranks




In 1907, Ernest M. Skinner Company of Boston installed a four-manual-and-pedal organ in Tompkins Avenue Church. Skinner retained the existing case and 28 ranks from the previous Midmer organ, and also installed an early example of his Orchestral Oboe stop. The organ was played from a four-manual drawknob console.

The organ was dedicated on March 2, 1908 by Clarence Eddy, who was then the organist and choirmaster of the church. Marcel Dupré presented his last American concert of 1937 on this organ, performing Bach's Fantasy and Fugue in G minor; the Allegro from Handel's Organ Concerto No. 10; Mozart's Fantasy in F minor; Sowerby's "Comes Autumn Time," and works of Saint-Saëns, Mendelssohn, Reger, Russell, Schubert and Dupré.

As of 2006, the organ was extant but unplayable.
               
Great Organ (Manual II) –61 notes
16
  Bourdon (wood)
61
8
  Erzähler
61
8
  First Diapason
61
4
  Octave
61
8
  Second Diapason
61
4
  Flute
61
8
  Gross Floete (wood)
61
16
  Ophecleide
SO
8
  Gedackt (wood)
61
8
  Harmonic Tuba
SO
8
  Gamba
61
4
  Harmonic Clarion
SO

     

     
Swell Organ (Manual III) –61 notes, enclosed
16
  Bourdon (wood)
61
4
  Octave
61
8
  First Diapason
61
4
  Flute
61
8
  Second Diapason
61
4
  Violin
61
8
  Spitz Floete
61
2
  Flautino
61
8
  Stopped Diapason
61
    Solo Mixture III ranks
183
8
  Aeoline
61
16
  Trumpet
61
8
  Salicional
61
8
  Cornopean
61
8
  Voix Celestes
61
8
  Oboe
61
8
  Dulcet II ranks
122
8
  Vox Humana
61
8
  Quintadena
61
4
  Clarion
61
8
  Gross Floete (wood)
61
    Tremolo  
               
Choir Organ (Manual I) –61 notes, enclosed with Solo
8
  Diapason
61
2
  Piccolo
61
8
  Melodia (wood)
61
8
  Clarinet
61
8
  Dulciana
61
8
  Orchestral Oboe
61
8
  Unda Maris
61
 
  Tremolo  
4
  Flute
61
       
               
Solo Organ (Manual IV) –61 notes, enclosed with Choir
8
  Philomela
61
4
  Harmonic Clarion (fr. 16')
16
  Ophecleide
85
    Chimes  
8
  Harmonic Tuba (fr. 16')
       

             
Pedal Organ –30 notes
32
  Diapason (wood)
54
8
  Gedackt (fr. 1st Bourdon)
16
  Diapason (fr. 32')
8
  'Cello (fr. Violone)
16
  First Bourdon (wood)
42
16
  Ophecleide
SO
16
  Second Bourdon
GT
8
  Harmonic Tuba
SO
16
  Violone (wood)
42
4
  Harmonic Clarion
SO
8
  Octave (fr. 32')
       
               
Couplers
    Swell to Pedal 8', 4'   Solo to Swell
    Great to Pedal   Swell to Choir 16', 8', 4'
    Choir to Pedal   Solo to Choir
    Solo to Pedal   Swell to Swell 16', 4'
    Swell to Great 16', 8', 4'   Choir to Choir 16', 4'
    Choir to Great 16', 8', 4'   Solo to Solo 16', 4'
    Solo to Great 16', 8, 4'      
               
Combinations (All adjustable at console and visibly operating the stops)
   
Swell Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6-0
Great Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-0
Choir Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-0
Solo Organ Pistons 1-2-3-0
Pedal Organ Pistons 1-2-3-0
               
Pedal Movements
    Balanced Swell Pedal   Reversible Great to Pedal
    Balanced Choir Pedal   Reversible Pedal for Swell Tremolo
    Balanced Crescendo Pedal   Sforzando Pedal
           
Organ installed in unknown location:

Estey Organ Company
Brattleboro, Vt.
Tubular-pneumatic action


A ledger book of the Midmer-Losh Organ Company has the following entry:
"Tompkins Ave Congregational Church, Tompkins Ave; Estey Pneumatic; new motor 1931."

As this organ does not appear on the Estey Organ opus list, it seems likely that the organ was acquired second-hand. It is unknown where this organ was installed; perhaps in the basement or Sunday school room. Specifications for this organ have not yet been located.
         
Organ installed in second church building at 54 McDonough Street:

Reuben Midmer & Son
Brooklyn, N.Y. (c.1899)
Unknown action


The first organ in the building now known as First A.M.E. Zion Church was built by Reuben Midmer & Son. Specifications for this organ have not yet been located.
           
Organ installed in the first church building at 69 McDonough Street:

Hook & Hastings Co.
Boston, Mass. – Opus 723 (1873)
Mechanical action
3 manuals, 35 stops


Specifications of this organ have not yet been located.
           
Sources:
     Aeolian-Skinner Archives web site: http://aeolianskinner.organsociety.org/.
     "A New Congregational Church," The New York Times (Jul 16, 1875).
     "A Splendid Church for Brooklyn," The New York Times (Jun 6, 1888).
     "Dupre Recital Tonight," The New York Times (Dec 3, 1937).
     Holden, Dorothy. The Life and Work of Ernest M. Skinner. Richmond: The Organ Historical Society, 1987.
     Kinzey, Allen, and Sand Lawn, comps. E.M. Skinner/Aeolian-Skinner Opus List. New Rev. Ed. Richmond: The Organ Historical Society, 1997.
     Midmer-Losh Organ Company ledger book. Entry for Estey organ. Courtesy Larry Trupiano.
     "Pews in Brisk Demand," The New York Times ( Jan 4, 1889).
     "Ready to Celebrate Church Anniversary," Brooklyn Eagle (Nov 13, 1900).
     Stiles, Henry R. History of the City of Brooklyn. Including the Old Town and Village of Brooklyn, The Town of Bushwick, and The Village and City of Williamsburgh. 1867-70.
     Trupiano, Larry. Factory Specification of Ernest M. Skinner organ, Op. 145 (1907).
     Van Pelt, William T., comp. The Hook Opus List, 1829-1916 in Facsimile. Richmond: The Organ Historical Society, 1991.
     Wong, Jai Lin. A History of Bedford-Stuyvesant. Excerpted on NYC Architecture Images web site: http://www.nyc-architecture.com/BES/BedStuy.htm
     WPA Guide to New York City (1939)

Illustrations:
     Birk, Eric. Interior.
     Brooklyn Eagle, Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection. Exterior.
     Schutt, David. Console of Ernest M. Skinner organ, Op. 145 (1907).