St. David Episcopal Church (Morrisania) - Bronx, N.Y.
 
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St. David Episcopal Church

384 East 160th Street
Bronx, N.Y. 10451

Organ Specifications:
Upper Church (since 1923)
II/9 J.H. & C.S. Odell, Op. 551 (1923)
Undercroft (since 1903)
• Simmons


From the eighteenth to the mid-ninetieth century, the area that would eventually become The Bronx was a small rural farming community. During the 1840s, the New York and Harlem Railroads was constructed, which changed this small community into a growing suburb. During this time period, the African-American population also increased, especially in the neighborhood of Morrisania. Many of these Morrisania African-American residents served as Pullman Porters and dining car waiters on the railroads. Due to this increasing Bronx-based African-American population, Rev. Edward G. Clifton, a black priest originally from the West Indies, and the Episcopal Diocese of New York, established St. David’s, a small mission church in Morrisania.

Originally, the congregation met in private homes on Elton Avenue. Eventually, the congregation rented a hall located on Courtland Avenue and 149th Street. Rev. Charles C. Tiffany, the Archdeacon of The Bronx and former minister of St. James Church, “took special interest in the new work among the colored people” and donated money towards the purchase of two lots for the construction of a church. In 1903, the undercroft of the church was constructed. Due to the growing size of the congregation, Venter W. Tandy, the first African-American registered architect in New York State, built the upper portion of the church in the 1920s.

In 1928, Rev. Clifton resigned and Rev. Dr. Arthur G. Best was appointed as the priest of St. David’s. Like Rev. Clifton, Rev. Best was also originally located from the British West Indies. During Rev. Best’s tenure at priest, a music program was established for the church. Basso Soloist Professor Packer Ramsey and Organists Viola Wilkinson, Tomlin Anderson, and Isaac Riley directed this program.

Shortly after Rev. Best resigned from his position in 1950, Rev. John W. Wells was appointed to replace him. Prior to serving as the priest of St. David’s, Rev. Wells served as Chaplain of Rockland State Hospital and encouraged parish members to volunteer in the Children’s Division at the institution. During the 1970s, it is believed that St. David’s, which was still a mission of the Episcopal Diocese, officially became a church. It was also during this time that the South Bronx went through a period of rapid decline. As a result, the church established several programs that provided tutoring to local students. The church also assisted families that were homeless due to arson.

In 1980, Rev. Bertram Bennett, Jr. was appointed as the priest. When Rev. Bennett started his ministry at the church, the area surrounding St. David’s was one of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States. In 1987, St. David’s, along with several other South Bronx-based churches, established South Bronx Churches, which continues to assist the community by improving housing, improving local schools, and other services.

               
J.H. & C.S. Odell & Co.
New York City – Opus 551 (1923)
Electro-pneumatic action
2 manuals, 9 stops, 9 ranks


The organ in the Upper Church was built in 1923 by J.H. & C.S. Odell of New York City. In the Articles of Agreement (Dec. 11, 1922) we read that Odell agreed to build a two-manual organ with nine stops for a consideration of $4,000, and that the organ would be complete and ready for use on or before March 31, 1923. The fate of this organ is unknown.
               
Great Organ (Manual I) – 61 notes
8
  Open Diapason
61
8
  Melodia
61
8
  Dulciana
61
4
  Octave
61
 
     
 
     
Swell Organ (Manual II) – 61 notes, enclosed
8
  Salicional
61
8
  Stopped Diapason
61
8
  Vox Celestis [TC]
49
4
  Rohr Flute
61
 
     
 
     
Pedal Organ – 30 notes
16
  Bourdon
30
   
               
Couplers
    Great to Pedal   Great to Great 16', 4'
    Swell to Pedal   Swell to Swell 16', 4'
    Swell to Great 16', 8', 4'   Pedal to Pedal Octaves
               
Adjustable Combinations
   
Swell Organ Pistons 1-2
Great Organ Pistons 1-2
               
Pedal Movements
    Balanced Swell Pedal   Great to Pedal Reversible
    Crescendo-Sforzando Pedal    
               
Accessories
    Swell Tremulant     Electric Action Generator
    Wind Indicator     Electric Motor & Fan Blower
    Crescendo Indicator     Organ Bench with Music Shelf
               
Simmons


The original organ was built by "Simmons." This may have been a Simmons & Clough reed organ. Specifications for this organ have not yet been located.
               
Sources:
     "St. David's Episcopal Church," Bronx African American History Project, Fordham University. web site
     Trupiano, Larry. Factory Specifications of J.H. & C.S. Odell organ, Op. 551 (1922).

Illustration:
     Google Street View. Exterior.