Grace Church, West Farms (Episcopal) - Bronx, N.Y.
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Grace Church, West Farms

1909 Vyse Avenue
The Bronx, N.Y. 10460

Organ Specifications:
1909 Vyse Avenue (since 1885)
Present building (since 1998)
• unknown
First building (1886-burned 1993)
I/8 Henry Erben; reb. by Labagh & Kemp (1886)
West Farms Road (1847-1885)
• I/8 Henry Erben (1847)
• Henry Erben (1838)

In the 1800s, West Farms was a mill town on the Bronx River. In 1835, there was not an Episcopal church in the area. It was through the efforts of Miss Margaret Hunt, daughter of Thomas Hunt, that village residents were persuaded to establish a church. The Bishop of New York was petitioned to provide aid, and he responded by sending the Rev. J.T. Cushing to organize a vestry. On December 18, 1844, the society was incorporated as Grace Church, West Farms.

1847 building of Grace Church, West Farms - Bronx, N.Y.  
Two years later, construction began on a church edifice and the cornerstone was laid on November 10, 1846. The frame structure was Gothic in style and had a tower and steeple at its corner. On July 28, 1847, the completed church was consecrated by the Rt. Rev. William Heathcote DeLancey, Bishop of Western New York.

Following the Civil War, a great depression affected all of West Farms and a mortgage was placed on the property to pay debts. In 1881, the mortgage was foreclosed and the church was faced with the decision to merge with a wealthier parish or become a mission chapel. The congregation chose to remain independent. Soon after, the church received notice that, after January 1885, the old church building could not be used as the new owners would not lease it or allow it to be used for religious purposes. Church services however, were held in the parish hall next door. In November 1885, the church was able to secure a lease on the parish hall and its land for one year at a yearly rental of one dollar, paid in advance. All of the church furnishings were then moved to the parish hall, and services were held in the parish hall thereafter.

Grace Church, West Farms - Bronx, N.Y. (1886 drawing, Wm. A. Potter)  
In February 1885, a generous financial offer was granted to erect a new church. The lots on Vyse Avenue were purchased by Mr. John B. Simpson who then deeded the property to the congregation. By July of that same year, plans for a shingle-style Gothic church were prepared by William A. Potter (1842-1909), a prominent architect who had designed several buildings for Princeton University. The cornerstone was laid on September 21, 1885, and the church was dedicated on February 7, 1886.

On Monday, November 1, 1993, a devastating three-alarm fire destroyed the 107-year-old church and buildings. In the face of such loss, the congregation was determined to rebuild. Until a new building could be erected, the congregation worshiped with St. Martha's Episcopal Church. Andrew Robert Levenbaum designed the present church buildings that were dedicated and consecrated on October 31, 1998.
  Labagh & Kemp Organ (1886) in Grace Church, West Farms - Bronx, N.Y. (1886 drawing, Wm. A. Potter)
Labagh & Kemp
New York City (1886)
Mechanical action
1 manual, 8 stops, 8 ranks

In 1886, the New York City firm of Labagh & Kemp moved and rebuilt the 1847 Henry Erben organ that had been in the original church. The following specifications were recorded (April, 1916) by Louis F. Mohr & Co., an organ service firm in the area. Mohr noted that all of the stops (except the Open Diapason) were enclosed the swell box, and the bellows were pumped by hand in the rear of the organ. The case was 7' 3" wide by 11' 0" deep and the Swell box was 10' 9" tall in the rear, rising to 12' 9" on the side facing the chancel. The console was attached at one end of the organ. Mohr wrote that the Tremolo, which was inside the trunk, did not work well, and that there was a hook-down swell pedal. Another note, dated Feb. 7, 1923, states: "ordered blower thru Mason & Hamlin."

This organ burned with the church on November 1, 1993.
Manual – 58 notes, enclosed
  Open Diapason [unenc.]
  Dulciana *
  Stopped Diapason
  Oboe (TC?)
* common bass with St. Diap.
Pedal Organ – 29 notes
    Pedal Coupler   Tremolo
    Pedal Octave Coupler    
    Swell Pedal (hook)    
Henry Erben
New York City (1847)
Mechanical action
1 manual, 8 stops

For their new church that opened in 1847, Henry Erben rebuilt and moved his 1838 organ. Specifications of this organ have not yet been located.
Henry Erben
New York City (1838)
Mechanical action
1 manual

The first known organ for Grace Church was built in 1838 by Henry Erben of New York City. This organ was rebuilt by Erben in 1847 and moved to the new church. Specifications of this organ have not yet been located.
     Bolton, Robert. A history of the county of Westchester, from its first settlement to the present time. New York: Alexander S. Gould, 1848.
     Grace Church, West Farms website:
     Jenkins, Stephen. The Story of the Bronx from the Purchase Made by the Dutch from the Indians in 1639 to the Present Day. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1912, p. 271.
     Jones, Charisse. "From Ashes to Hope; After Fire, a Bronx Parish Prays and Looks to Its Rebuilding," The New York Times (Nov. 8, 1993).
     Mohr, Louis F. & Co. Specification of Labagh & Kemp organ (1886). Courtesy Larry Trupiano.

     American Architect and Building News (Nov. 27, 1886): Wm. A. Potter drawings of exterior and interior.
     Google Street View: exterior of present building.