Queens Colonial-Era Church Enters Designation Process

Old St. James Episcopal Church in Queens. Image Credit: LPC.

1736 structure is the second-oldest surviving religious building in New York City. On June 27, 2017, Landmarks unanimously voted to add the Old St. James Episcopal Church at 86-02 Broadway in Queens’ Elmhurst neighborhood, to its calendar, officially beginning the designation process. The building is the one of the oldest purpose-built religious structures in the City, second only to the 1694 Friends Meeting House in Flushing, an individual City landmark designated in 1970.

The Church was completed in 1736, serving the community’s Church of England Adherents. The community, then known as Newtown, is one of the earliest European settlements in the area, founded by Dutch settlers in 1652 as Middleburgh. The wood-framed church was constructed simply in a rectangular form like many New England meeting houses, clad in shingles with round-arch windows and a steeple at the west side facing a graveyard.

The building was not damaged and continued to serve as house of worship during the Revolutionary War. In 1848, the congregation built a larger church nearby, and the building was converted into a parish hall. The western tower was destroyed by a storm in 1883, and the church was subsequently renovated in the Carpenter Gothic style, with decorative brackets, round-arch openings, molding and a gable.

During the 20th century, the church was reclad, and some of its Gothic ornamentation was lost. It was restored to its shingle-clad 19th century appearance in 2004, with grants from the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Sacred Sites Program.

The lot was calendared in part, excluding a parking lot on the property. Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan led the vote for adding the item to the Commission’s calendar, and said the building’s “distinction is clear,” and that it possessed “an enormous amount of significance in telling New York’s story.”

LPC: Old Saint James Episcopal Church, 86-02 Broadway, Queens (LP-2593) (June 27, 2017).

By: Jesse Denno (Jesse is a full-time staff writer at the Center for NYC Law)


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.