Do You Remember

Tom Casey provided this picture postcard of the Mott Haven Reformed Church being moved in 1914. The noise and rattling from the Third Avenue El proved too much of an obstacle to overcome so the church was moved around the corner from Third Avenue to 146th Street.

A recent column I wrote about Jordan L. Mott reminded me about the church he helped establish in 1850.  He donated a plot of land 150 feet square and one thousand dollars toward the building of a church.  Thus the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Mott Haven was formed at Third Avenue and 146th Street.  Mr. Mott’s son-in-law, Dr. Matthew D. Van Doren, had a brother who was an ordained minister.  Reverend William T. Van Doren was, therefore, appointed the first pastor of the new church in May of 1852 with a salary of $600 per year.  He was actually at the church earlier and performed the first service for the congregation in May of 1850 at the school house.  The cornerstone of the church was laid on October 8, 1852 and the building was completed in1854.  It was dedicated on or about March 1, 1855 but work on the tower continued until it was completed in 1862. 

As more land east of Third Avenue was opened up, the parish continued to grow in numbers.  Then on January 1, 1874, the church bells began to sing out and the people began parading through the streets with joy at becoming part of New York City for it was on this date that the area we now know as the Bronx west of the Bronx River was annexed from Westchester County to New York City.  The parishioners saw this as a further opportunity for increased city services and further growth. 

Rev. Van Doren remained at the parish for about a year and a half when he deemed it properly formed and then he moved to a larger parish in Manhattan.  Various ministers filled in until 1858 when Rev. William T. Enyard, a new seminary graduate, accepted the pastorship of the parish and served for eight years.  The next pastor was Rev. Hasbrouck Du Bois who served for twenty-one years. 

The church continued with its ups and downs being disturbed physically by the raising of the roadway in front of the church and internally by some bickering.  Eventually the Third Avenue el was built which created havoc within the church.  The pastor had to stop preaching every time a train passed.  The rattling from the passing trains also began to cause cracks in the building and it was determined that it simply had to be moved.  The church sued the city and won and used the court award toward moving the church around the corner.  Thus in 1914 the church found itself relocated on a new foundation on 146th Street and a new cornerstone was laid on November 14th of that year. 

The old Romanesque structure, however, did sustain some damage, due both to the rattling of the el and the moving, and by 1971 it reached the point where it had to be demolished.   The church attendance had fallen off primarily due to parishioners moving out of the area so when the new church was built, it was much more modest.  It did, however, and still does serve the purpose for which it was created: to provide an opportunity for spiritual growth for the people of the community.  Today all is well at the Mott Haven Reformed Church. 

This column about the Mott Haven Reformed Church is somewhat of a milestone for me as it completes my 25th year of writing my columns for the Bronx Times Reporter.  Thanks to all my readers who so faithfully read my stories over the past two and a half decades. 

– Historic Milestone-

This column represents Bill Twomey’s 25th year of writing articles for the Bronx Times Reporter.

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