West Presbyterian Church - New York City
 
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West Presbyterian Church

31 West 42nd Street
New York, N.Y. 10036


Organ Specifications:
31 West 42nd Street (1862-1911)
• III/28 Hilborne L. Roosevelt, Op. 145 (1884)
II/25 Ferris & Stuart (1865)
Carmine Street, head of Varick Street (1831-1862)
• II/20 George Jardine (1842)
• Unknown Builder





Carmine Street Presbyterian Church - New York City  
Carmine Street Church (1831-1862)  
The West Presbyterian Church was organized in 1829 as the North Presbyterian Church. Two years later, the society erected its first building on Carmine Street, at the north end of Varick Street, and the name was changed to West. It was built of white marble in a classic doric style, and had a façade modeled after the Temple of Jason on the bank of Ilissus River in Athens.

Over the next three decades the congregation grew steadily, and by 1860 the church had outgrown the building. It was decided to move uptown to 42d Street, where land was plentiful and relatively inexpensive. The congregation held services in the chapel of Rutgers Institute, then located on the site of the future church, and for a time met in Crystal Hall, on Sixth Avenue near 42nd Street. A site was purchased for $28,000 that had a frontage of 78 feet on 42nd Street, extending back 200 feet to 43rd Street where there was a frontage of 43 feet. A new chapel was built and dedicated in 1862, and in 1865, coinciding with the end of the Civil War, the adjacent church was built and dedicated. Designed in the decorated Gothic style, the façade featured a tower with steeple, and on the interior was a large auditorium that could accomodate 1,200 on the main floor and three galleries.

From 1881 to 1893, West Church was led by the Rev. Dr. John R. Paxton, who attracted a large following with his vigorous sermons. The church was crowded to the doors every Sunday, with people sitting on the pulpit steps and on soap boxes in the gallery. Helen Gould heard Dr. Paxton one Sunday and convinced her father, who attended an Episcopal church, to join the church. Jay Gould then convinced Russell Sage to leave the Brick Church, and soon many other wealthy persons followed, including Alfred H. Smith, Seth Thomas, Henry E. Payne, Henry M. Flagler, and others. West Presbyterian was often referred to as the "millionaire's" or "broker's" church. Owing to its financial strength, the congregation was able to start new missions, including the Faith Chapel and Good Shepherd Chapel, and support many charitable causes. However, in 1892 and 1893, Dr. Paxton suffered from failing health and his sermons were increasingly directed at the miserly rich. This did not sit well with the trustees, who included Russell Sage, and Dr. Paxton was told that the church could no longer afford to pay his salary of $15,000 a year, due to the depression of 1893. Dr. Paxton resigned several times, only to be declined by the congregation, and finally retired on December 31, 1893. The congregation split, and a few years later Russell Sage decided to foreclose on a mortgage he held for the church. Although the mortgage was finally paid, Mr. Sage and other wealthy members left the church, leaving the congregation in a weakened financial condition.

By 1910, ninety percent of the congregation lived above 66th Street on the west side, and the property on 42nd Street had become very valuable. Discussions began with the trustees of the Park Presbyterian Church, located on 86th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, and in 1911, both congregations agreed to merge, forming the West-Park Presbyterian Church. West Presbyterian brought an endowment of $600,000, and it was agreed that the proceeds from the sale of the old property would fund a new church on Wadsworth Avenue and 175th Street in the rapidly growing section of Washington Heights. The 42nd Street property was sold for $1,100,000 to Frederick G. Bourne, who built a sixteen-story commercial building on the site. Mr. Bourne, an ex-Commodore of the New York Yacht Club and more notably the president of the Singer Sewing Machine Co., was also a director and a major stockholder of the Aeolian Company. His plans were to turn the building over to the Aeolian Company for use as its main offices.
               
Organ in church located at 31 West 42nd Street:

Hilborne L. Roosevelt
New York City – Opus 145 (1884)
Tracker-pneumatic action
3 manuals, 28 stops


Specifications for this organ have not yet been located.
               
Organ in church located at 31 West 42nd Street:

Ferris & Stuart
New York City (1865)
Mechanical action
2 manuals, 22 stops, 25 ranks
               
Great Organ (Manual I) – 56 notes
16
  Double Open Diapason
56
4
  Flute Harmonic
56
8
  Open Diapason
56
3
  Twelfth
56
8
  Gamba
56
2
  Fifteenth
56
8
  Stop Diapason [wood]
56
    Sesquialtera, 3 ranks
168
8
  Dulce
56
8
  Trumpet
56
4
  Principal
56
8
  Cremona
56
               
Swell Organ (Manual II) – 56 notes, enclosed
8
  Bourdon [wood]
56
4
  Principal
56
8
  Open Diapaons
56
2
  Fifteenth
56
8
  Dulciana
56
    Cornet, 2 ranks
112
8
  Stop Diapason [wood]
56
8
  Hautboy
56
               
Pedal Organ – 25 notes
16
  Open Diapason [wood]
25
       
16
  Gamba
25
       
               
Couplers and Mechanicals
    Great and Swell   Vox Tremulant
    Pedal and Swell   Bellows
    Pedal and Great    
               
Organ in church located on Carmine Street:

George Jardine
New York City (1842)
Mechanical action
2 manuals, 20 stops


The American Musical Directory of 1861 shows that this organ "2 banks keys, 20 stops, 1 octave pedals" and was "Built by Geo. Jardine, in 1842." Specifications for this organ have not yet been located.
               
Organ in church located on Carmine Street:

Unknown Builder
(<1842)
Mechanical action


From the Trustee Minutes (Nov. 14, 1842): 'Mr. Smith the Organist reported his progress of obtaining subscriptions toward procuring a new Organ in the Church. Mr. Jardine will allow $400 for the old organ and wants $1500 for his new organ in exchange...'

No further information about this organ has been located.
               
Sources:
     American Musical Directory. New York: Thomas Hutchinson, 1861.
     Dunlap, David W. From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan's Houses of Worship. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.
     "Famous Old Church to Close Its Doors," The New York Times (March 13, 1911).
     Fay, Theodore S. Views in New-York and its Environs from Accurate, Characteristic, and Picturesque Drawings. New York: Peabody & Co., 1831.
     King, Moses. Handbook of New York City: An Outline History & Description of the American Metropolis. Boston: Moses King, 1892.
     Nelson, George. Organs in the United States and Canada Database. Seattle, Wash.
     "To Build Skyscraper Near Times Square," The New York Times (March 31, 1911).
     Trupiano, Larry. Specifications of Ferris & Stuart organ (1865).
     Trustee Minutes (Nov. 14, 1842) of Carmine Street Presbyterian Church. Courtesy Larry Trupiano.

Illustrations:
     Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Exterior (1897). Collection of the Museum of the City of New York.
     Fay, Theodore S. Views in New-York and its Environs from Accurate, Characteristic, and Picturesque Drawings. Drawing (c.1831) of Carmine Street Church.