St. Augustine Episcopal Church - New York City

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St. Augustine Episcopal Church

290 Henry Street
New York, N.Y. 10002

Organ Specifications:
290 Henry Street (since 1945)
II/17 Henry Erben (1830)
107 East Houston Street (1877-1945)
• II/22 Henry Erben (1877)

St. Augustine's Church was formerly a chapel of Trinity Parish, and is the outgrowth of two churches – All Saints' Free Episcopal Church and St. Augustine's Chapel.

All Saints' Free Episcopal Church dates from 1819, when a mission was started near the old Grand Street Ferry by students of the General Theological Seminary. The mission grew soundly under the lay leadership of Colonel Marinus Willet, early leader in the American Revolution and lifelong friend of General Lafayette. The real organization of All Saints' Church was accomplished on May 27, 1824, under the Reverend William A. Clark, who continued as Rector until 1837. During this period the present church, very possibly designed by John Heath, was built on Henry Street in 1829. The stone was quarried from Mount Pitt, a hill sixty feet high, on which were erected the earthworks which guarded Washington's retreat from Long Island. The church was consecrated by John Henry Hobart, third bishop of New York in 1828, although it was not completed until 1829.

In its early days, the church was attended by Edgar Allan Poe, who used to seek peace and quiet from his disturbed mind. Later, "Boss" Tweed, when a fugitive from justice, attended his mother's funeral here, hiding from the authorities in the slave gallery.

St. Augustine's Chapel was established in 1869 as a mission chapel of Trinity Parish. In 1876-87, a chapel and mission house, were built at 107 East Houston near Second Avenue. Potter & Robertson designed the large Victorian Gothic building that included a tall tower and steeple. Located in one of the poorest areas of the city, St. Augustine's was, from the beginning, "A church for the people." The large number of central European names that are found in its records testifies to the breadth of its ministry. Gradually, however, the neighborhood changed from residential to business. In 1927, the sanctuary was divided with a soundproof wall to accomodate the Episcopal chapel on one side, and St. Mary's Russian Orthodox Cathedral on the other. After nearly seventy years of great activity, St. Augustine's was closed and the congregation merged with that of All Saints' in the winter of 1944-45.

The present congregation is a mixture of people of every race and cultural background, most notable being the old Holy Cross Mission Chapel and Corpus Christi, each of which ended its existence several years ago.  The furniture of the church itself indicates something of the church's varied history:

The High Altar, dedicated in honor of Saint Augustine, was once the High Altar of the Mother parish, having been replaced there by the magnificent Astor Reredos. The Lady Altar, where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, was in Saint Augustine's Old Chapel, and was made by the father of one of its parishioners.

The Great Golden Rood of Christ the King (as it was called by The New York Times) is a memorial to all the faithful departed of Saint Augustine's Chapel. It, along with some of the statues, was made in Bruges, Belgium.

The wine glass pulpit was formerly in St. John's Chapel on Varrick Street. Its ostrich-feather crest, the emblem of the Prince of Wales, takes us well back to Colonial Days.

West Gallery for Slaves in All Saints' Free Episcopal Church - New York City  
Perhaps the most interesting and disturbing feature in St. Augustine's are the two crude slave galleries that flank the organ loft at the rear of the balcony. Although the church was consecrated in June 1828, a year after emancipation had become law in this state, New York continued to recognize as slaves those persons who were in the company of their masters from other states.

St. Augustine's was granted independence from Trinity Parish in 1976 at which time Trinity established an endowment for the new St. Augustine Church. In 1966, the Henry Street church was designated by the New York City Landmarks Preservations Commission.
  Henry Erben Organ (1830) in St. Augustine Episcopal Church - New York City
Henry Erben
New York City (1830)
Mechanical action
2 manuals, 15 stops, 17 ranks

The Erben organ is installed in the rear gallery of the church. A simple case includes hinged doors that enclose the attached keyboards and vertical rows of drawknobs on flat jambs. Above the flat pedalboard are fixed combination pedals and hitch-down swell pedal.

In 1978, the organ was restored by Hartman-Beatty, and again in 1991 by Chris Ballad. It is believed that the organ was altered in 1871 by George Jardine & Son, and it may have been rebuilt in 1883 by J.H. & C.S. Odell.
Great Organ (Manual I) – 58 notes [GG-f''', lacking GG#]
  Open Diapason  
  Stop Diapason       Sesquialtera Bass  
  Octave       Cornet Treble  
Swell Organ (Manual II) – 58 notes [GG-f''', lacking GG#]
  Open Diapason  
  Stop Diapason  
Choir Organ (Manual II) – bass to Swell
  Stop Diapason          
Pedal Organ
  Open Wood        
    Swell to Great          
    Great to Pedal          
St. Augustine Chapel in 1879
Organ in St. Augustine Chapel at 107 East Houston Street:

Henry Erben
New York City (1877)
Tracker-pneumatic action
2 manuals, 22 stops

At the end of the business era of Henry Erben & Son, J.H. & C.S. Odell took over the maintenance of the 1877 Erben. An Odell Ledger Book entry states that the organ had tracker-pneumatic action with 22 stops (Great 10, Swell 10, Pedal 2). Specifications for this organ have not yet been located.
     Dolkart, Andrew S. and Matthew A. Postal. Guide to New York City Landmarks (Third Edition). New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2004.
     Dunlap, David W. From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan's Houses of Worship. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.
     J.H. & C.S. Odell Ledger Book entry for 1877 Henry Erben organ. Courtesy Larry Trupiano.
     Ogasapian, John. Organ Building in New York City: 1700-1900. Braintree: The Organ Literature Foundation, 1977.
     St. Augustine Episcopal Church web site:

     Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online. 1934 photo of All Saints Free Episcopal Church Exterior (credit: LucioM).
     St. Augustine Episcopal Church web site. Henry Erben organ; West Slave Gallery (1956).