First Reformed Episcopal Church - New York City (Photo: John Rust)

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First Reformed Episcopal Church

317 East 50th Street
New York, N.Y. 10022
www.firstchurchnyc.net

Organ Specifications:
317 East 50th Street
Present building (since 1931)
III/31 Schantz Organ Company, Op. 2054 (1993)
• II/ Allen Organ Company electronic (1965)
III/27 Henry Pilcher's Sons, Op. 1525 (1932)
First building (1921-1930) – orig. Beekman Hill M.E. Church
• III/41 George Jardine & Son (1877) – from previous church?
551 Madison Avenue at 55th Street (1877-1920)
• III/41 George Jardine & Son (1877)
Madison Avenue at 47th Street (1874-1877)
• unknown


The denomination known as the Reformed Episcopal Church was founded in 1873 in response to a long debate over the excessive "High Church" tendencies by the Protestant Episcopal Church and its exclusive attitude toward other denominations. The Rt. Rev. Dr. George David Cummins (1822-1876), Assistant Bishop of Kentucky, had been rebuked for participating in a Communion Service at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City. Subsequently, Bishop Cummins, joined by eight clergymen and twenty lay members, withdrew from the Protestant Episcopal Church and formed a new jurisdiction. Services were held in Lyric Hall, on Sixth Avenue, until May 1874, when the new society was able to secure its own church (possibly the former Church of the Resurrection, a little Gothic stone building at the corner of Madison Avenue and 47th Street). Bishop Cummins became gravely ill in 1874 and was no longer able to function as cleric. He was succeeded by the Rev. Dr. William T. Sabine, who had been rector of the Church of the Atonement at Madison Avenue and 28th Street. (Dr. Sabine became infamous while at the Atonement when, in December 1870, he refused to conduct a funeral for the actor George Holland. At the time, actors were esteemed only a little higher than prostitutes. When asked if there was someplace else where the funeral could be held, Dr. Sabine responded, "I believe there's a little church around the corner that does that sort of thing." He was referring to the Church of the Transfiguration on East 29th Street.)

551 Madison Ave. building (1876) - First Reformed Episcopal Church - New York City (Photo: First Reformed Episcopal Church)  
551 Madison Avenue (1877-1920)
 
In 1876, the congregation began construction on their first church building, located at 551 Madison Avenue and 55th Street. The first services were held in the basement on Sunday, April 22, 1877, and the church was expected to be completed and dedicated about the middle of May. As designed by James Stroud in the Victorian Gothic style, the building measured 66 feet by 96 feet and was built of Newark stone with rock face and Berlin stone dressing. At the corner was a square bell tower surmounted by a pyramid steeple. The interior featured an open timber roof of carved ribs sprung from corbelled columns against the walls, a ceiling that rose to a height of 63 feet, and woodwork of ash. Approximately 900 could be accomodated on the main floor, and the gallery provided seating for 200; the basement Sunday-school had space for 600 scholars. The building cost $107,000, including the organ, and the lots cost $42,500. The congregation remained at this location until November 1919, when the property was sold for $325,000 to the Allerton House Company, who then razed the church and erected a seventeen-story apartment hotel for bachelors. Services were held in a leased building while the congregation determined the type of new building they would need for the future.

  317 East 50th Street building (1921-1930) - First Reformed Episcopal Church - New York City (Photo: First Reformed Episcopal Church)
 
317 East 50th Street (1921-1930)
In 1921, the Reformed Episcopal congregation purchased the former Beekman Hill Methodist Episcopal Church after that society merged with the East Sixty-first Methodist Church. Located on 50th Street, east of Second Avenue, the property included an 1873 church building and adjoining manse. The new church home was dedicated on Sunday, February 20, 1921, with a service that included three baptisms, a celebration of Holy Communion, and a sermon by the Rev. Percy T. Edrop, the rector.

By the late 1920s, the 1873 building was in poor condition and the trustees reported that there were no funds to remodel it. A plan was devised in which the church would lease its property to the Labor Holding Corporation, who would then construct an income-producing apartment building that would include space on the lower floors for the church and all its activities. The old church building was razed and the present skyscraper church, a 12-story and penthouse apartment house designed by George G. Miller, was built as part of the Beekman Hill Apartment Corporation. Gothic details and the inscription, "To Testify the Gospel of the Grace of God," set apart the church portion of the building. The cornerstone was dedicated on February 16, 1931, and the first service in the new church facility took place on September 13, 1931.
           
  First Reformed Episcopal Church - New York City (Photo: Steven E. Lawson)
   
  Schantz Organ (Op. 2054, 1993) - First Reformed Episcopal Church - New York City (Photo: Steven E. Lawson)
Schantz Organ Company
Orrville, Ohio – Opus 2054 (1993)
Electro-pneumatic key action
Solid-state combination action (16 levels)
3 manuals, 37 registers, 26 stops, 31 ranks






In 1993, the aging electronic organ was replaced by a new pipe organ built by the Schantz Organ Company of Orrville, Ohio. The organ is installed in chambers across the front of the chancel and speaks through three tone openings; the façade pipes are from the Great 8' Principal. Schantz provided a three-manual drawknob console that is located with the choir at the left side of the chancel.
               
Great Organ (Manual II) – 61 notes, exposed (3" pressure)
8
  Principal (1-17 in façade)
61
8
  Trumpet
61
8
  Bourdon
61
   
Chimes (from previous organ)  
4
  Octave
61
    Great 16'  
4
  Waldflöte
61
    Unison Off
2
  Super Octave
61
    Great 4'  
    Fourniture IV ranks *
183
   
* draws 2' Super Octave

     

     
Swell Organ (Manual III) – 61 notes, enclosed (3½" pressure)
8
  Rohrflöte
61
8
  Trompette
73
8
  Salicional
61
8
  Hautbois (fr. Basson)
8
  Voix Celeste (TC)
49
4
  Clairon (fr. Trompette)
4
  Prinzipal
61
    Tremulant  
4
  Harmonic Flute
73
    Swell 16'  
2
  Harmonic Piccolo (fr. 4')

  Unison Off  
    Plein Jeu III ranks
183
    Swell 4'  
16
  Basson
73
       

     

     
Choir/Positif Organ (Manual I) – 61 notes, enclosed (3" pressure)
8
  Cor de Nuit
61
8
  Schalmei **
61
4
  Prestant
61
  Tremulant  
4
  Koppelflöte
61
    Choir/Positif 16'  
2 2/3
  Nazard
61
    Unison Off  
2
  Gemshorn
61
    Choir Positif 4'  
1 3/5
  Tierce
61
   
** actually a Rohrschalmei

     

     
Pedal Organ – 32 notes (3½" pressure)
16
  Principal (ext. GT)
12
4
  Stopped Flute (fr. Subbass)
16
  Subbass
56
    Mixture II ranks
64
16
  Bourdon (ext. SW)
12
16
  Trombone (ext. GT)
12
8
  Principal
32
16
  Basson
SW
8
  Bass Flute (fr. Subbass)
8
  Trumpet
GT
4
  Choralbass
32
4
  Hautbois
SW
               
Couplers
    Great to Pedal 8', 4'   Choir/Positif to Great 16', 8', 4'
    Swell to Pedal 8', 4'   Choir/Positif to Swell 8'
    Choir/Positif to Pedal 8', 4'   Swell to Choir/Positif 16', 8', 4'
    Swell to Great 16', 8', 4'   Great to Choir/Positif 8'
               
Adjustable Combinations
   
Great Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6 (thumb)
Swell Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6 (thumb)
Choir/Positif Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6 (thumb)
Pedal Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6 (toe)
General Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 (thumb & toe)
  General Cancel (thumb)
  Set (thumb)
               
Reversibles
    Great to Pedal (thumb & toe)   Choir/Positif to Pedal (thumb & toe)
    Swell to Pedal (thumb & toe)   Sforzando (thumb & toe)
               
Pedal Movements
    Balanced Swell Pedal      
    Balanced Choir/Positif Pedal      
    Crescendo Pedal      
           
Henry Pilcher's Sons
Louisville, Ky. – Opus 1525 (1932)
Electro-pneumatic action
3 manuals, 31 registers, 27 stops, 27 ranks


The original organ in the present church was moved from the previous building by Henry Pilcher's Sons of Louisville. Pilcher's provided several new stops, as indicated below, and, presumably a new console. This organ was completed in January 1932 and cost $12,550. In 1965, the Pilcher organ became unplayable and was replaced by a two-manual Allen electronic instrument.
 
Great Organ (Manual II) – 61 notes
16
  Open Diapason
73
2
  Fifteenth
61
8
  Open Diapason
73
8
  Tuba *
73
8
  Triaulephone (wood)
73
    Chimes
CH
8
  Gamba *
73

  Tremolo *
4
  Principal
73
       

     

     
Swell Organ (Manual III) – 61 notes
16
  Bourdon (wood)
73
4
  Principal
73
8
  Open Diapason
73
2
  Piccolo (wood & metal)
61
8
  Clarinet Flute
73
8
  Cornopean *
73
8
  Viol d'Orchestre *
73
8
  Oboe
61
8
  Viol Celeste *
73
    Chimes
CH
8
  Aeoline *
73

  Tremolo *
4
  Flute Harmonique
73
       

     

     
Choir Organ (Manual I) – 61 notes, enclosed
8
  English Diapason *
73
2
  Flageolet
61
8
  Keraulophone
73
8
  French Horn
73
8
  Dulciana
73
   
Chimes
20 bells
8
  Gedeckt (wood)
73

  Tremolo *  
4
  Flauto Traverso (wood)
73
       

     

     
Pedal Organ – 32 notes
16
  Open Diapason (wood)
32
8
  Flute * (fr. Contra Bourdon)
16
  Contra Bourdon (wood)
44
8
  Cello
GT
16
  Lieblich Gedeckt *
SW
8
  Tuba *
GT
               
           
* added by Pilcher
Couplers
    Great to Pedal 8, 4   Great to Great 16, 4, Unison Off
    Swell to Pedal 8, 4   Swell to Swell 16, 4, Unison Off
    Choir to Pedal 8   Choir to Choir 16, 4, Unison Off
    Swell to Great 16, 8, 4   Swell Separation
    Choir to Great 16, 8, 4   Great Separation
    Swell to Choir 16, 8, 4   Choir Separation
             
Combinations
   
Great Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4
Swell Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5
Choir Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4
Pedal Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4
Cancellors Pistons 1-2-3-4
Generals Pistons 1-2-3-4
General Cancel  
             
Pedal Movements
    Swell Expression Pedal   Unison Couplers Only
    Choir Expression Pedal   Sub and Supers On
    Crescendo Pedal   Coupler Cancel
    Great to Pedal Reversible   Sforzando Pedal
             
Accessories
    Wind Indicator   Sforzando Indicator
    Crescendo Indicator   Organists Bench
           
 

Geo. Jardine & Son Organ in First Reformed Episcopal Church - New York City

Organ in first building at 317 East 50th Street:

George Jardine & Son
New York City (1877)
Mechanical action
3 manuals, 41 stops




The photo at right of the former Beekman Hill Methodist Episcopal Church, which First Reformed moved to in 1921, shows an organ that has pipe flats that are identical to those of the 1877 Geo. Jardine & Son organ in the previous church at 551 Madison Avenue. It seems likely that the Jardine organ was moved to the new church (by an unknown builder) in 1921. Specifications of this organ have not yet been located.
           
  551 Madison Ave. building (1876) - First Reformed Episcopal Church - New York City (Photo: First Reformed Episcopal Church)
Organ in church at 551 Madison Avenue:

George Jardine & Son
New York City (1877)
Mechanical action
3 manuals, 41 stops




Specifications for this organ have not yet been located.
           
Sources:
     The American Organist (Nov. 1930). Stoplist of Henry Pilcher's Sons organ, Op. 1525 (1932). Courtesy Jonathan Bowen.
     "A Church Debt Paid," The New York Times (Feb. 16, 1880).
     "Church In New Home," The New York Times (Feb. 21, 1921).
     Church of the Transfiguration ("the Little Church Around the Corner") web site: http://www.littlechurch.org/
     "Church To Be Razed," The New York Times (June 29, 1919).
     "Church To Share Building," The New York Times (Apr. 30, 1930).
     "Church-Home Stone Laid," The New York Times (Feb. 17, 1931).
     "Dedication of the Beekman Hill M. E. Church," The New York Times (Apr. 21, 1873).
     The Diapason (Nov. 1930). Stoplist of Henry Pilcher's Sons organ, Op. 1525 (1932). Courtesy Jeff Scofield.
     Dunlap, David. From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan's Houses of Worship. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.
     "Founded Twenty Years Ago," The New York Times (Dec. 3, 1893).
     Glück, Sebastian M. Electronic correspondence (Mar. 18, 2015) with corrections to specification.
     "Madison Av. Church To Go," The New York Times (Sep. 21, 1919).
     Organ Historical Society Archives. Pilcher Ledger Book. Specification of Henry Pilcher's Sons organ, Op. 1525 (1932). Courtesy Bynum Petty, Archivist.
     "Reformed Episcopal Services," The New York Times (Apr. 16, 1877).
     The Reformed Episcopal Church web site: http://www.recus.org/
     "Topics of Interest to the Churchgoer," The New York Times (Sep. 12, 1931).

Illustrations:
     First Reformed Episcopal Church Archives. Courtesy Bernadette Hoke.
     Lawson, Steven E. Schantz Organ console.
     Rust, John. Exterior; color interior of present church.