Catholic Church of St. Clare - New York City (photo: Wurts Bros., ca.1905)
 

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Church of St. Clare
(Roman Catholic)

436 West 36th Street
New York, N.Y. 10036




The Church of St. Clare, also known as Chiesa di Santa Chiara, was established by Cardinal Farley to serve the Italian Catholics of the central west side of New York City. Cardinal Farley assigned the Franciscans of the Italian Province of the Immaculate Conception to form a parish. The Franciscans secured a small wooden building on West 36th Street, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, in which Rev. Ubaldus Maravalle, O.F.M., celebrated the first Mass in November 1903.

Catholic Church of St. Clare - New York City (photo: Wurts Bros., ca.1905)  
Over the next several years funds were raised to build a permanent church. In 1905, Nicholas Serracino designed a church in the Italianate style that was built of brick with a façade of white glazed tiles. Its interior was described as having "high groined arches and is brilliantly lighted by windows over the nave." The completed church cost $50,000 and was dedicated in 1907. The old wooden building adjoined the new church and was refitted for use as a chapel and community house.

St. Clare's existence was short-lived as it was razed in the 1930s to provide access for the new Lincoln Tunnel.



               
Henry Erben
New York City (1862)
Mechanical action
2 manuals, 15 stops, 15 ranks


The organ in St. Clare's Church was believed to have been built in 1862 by Henry Erben of New York City. It is not known where this organ was originally installed, but it was most probably moved to St. Clare's when the church was built from 1905-07. At an unknown time (but probably in the 1930s when St. Clare's was closed), the organ was moved to the Italian Church of the Most Precious Blood on Mulberry Street.

On May 12, 1958, F.R. Webber recorded the following specifications. Webber's "Organ Scrapbooks" are in the possession of The Organ Historical Society Archives in Princeton, N.J. Webber's comments included the following notations:

          "Robt. Anthony Porto, Brooklyn"
          "Originally? in St. Clare's, 34th [sic] St."

Anthony Porto was an organbuilder known to be active in Brooklyn in the 1920s. It is possible that Porto rebuilt and electrified the Erben organ, and added the sub- and super-couplers. The original Erben organ probably had only three couplers: Great to Pedal, Swell to Pedal, and Swell to Great.
               
Great Organ (Manual I) – 56 notes
8
  Open Diapason
56
4
  Octave
56
8
  Clarabella
56
3
  Twelfth
56
8
  Dulciana [TC]
44
2
  Fifteenth
56
8
  Gamba [TC]
44
8
  Trumpet
56

 

     

 

     
Swell Organ (Manual II) – 56 notes, enclosed
8
  Open Diapason
56
4
  Principal
56
8
  Stopped Diapason [chimney]
56
4
  Flute [chimney]
56
8
  Dulciana
56
8
  Clarinet
56
               
Pedal Organ – (unknown compass)
16
  Open Diapason
?
       
               
Couplers
    Swell to Swell 16', 4'       Great to Pedal  
    Swell to Great 16', 8', 4'       Swell to Pedal  
    Great to Great 16', 4'       Pedal octaves  
               
Sources:
     The Catholic Church in the United States of America: Undertaken to Celebrate the Golden Jubilee of His Holiness, Pope Pius X, Vol. III. New York: The Catholic Editing Company, 1914.
     Dunlap, David. From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan's Houses of Worship. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.
     Webber, F.R. "Organ scrapbook" at Organ Historical Society Archives, Princeton, N.J. Specifications of Henry Erben organ (1862) in 1958. Courtesy Jonathan Bowen.

Illustrations:
     Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). Exterior and interior (ca.1905). Collection of the Museum of the City of New York.