Do You Remember

(Right) Tom Casey took this photograph of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church on Sunday morning, April 13. It is located off Dawson Street at East 156th Street in the historic Longwood section of our borough.

Tom Casey and I have taken to visiting some of the many south Bronx churches on Sunday mornings.  We’ve heard some astoundingly great gospel music and met some wonderful welcoming people in our travels.  Last week we checked out one church that was over a century old and had the original pews, organ pipes, etc.  We also stopped by a newer structure, St. Margaret’s, in the Longwood historic district. 

St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church was founded on January 15, 1899 as a mission with their first meeting being held in the White Mansion at Beck and East 156th Streets.  The following year, Reverend Charles Hamilton became pastor and a church building was constructed on a triangular piece of property bounded by Dawson Street, East 156th Street, Kelly Street and Leggett Avenue.  The area was sparsely populated at the time but they built their church and the people did come.

The 3.2 mile extension of the IRT from 149th Street and Third Avenue to 180th Street and Bronx Park opened on November 26, 1904 and the 1.1 mile run from Lenox Avenue and 135th Street to Jackson Avenue was opened on July 10, 1905.  A building boon followed the tracks and soon the Bronx was awash in housing and the congregations of the churches along the way mushroomed.  St. Margaret’s was among those to see a huge increase in parishioners and the church building was renovated to accommodate the influx of church goers. 

When Police Officer Douglas W. Hay was gunned down on May 18, 1922 at Third Avenue and 172nd Street by Michael Trabiano, the officer’s house at 711 Tinton Avenue and St. Margaret’s Church were besieged by some 40,000 well-wishers.  Hay had just served a summons on Trabiano when the fish monger turned and shot him in the back.  Two hundred police offers escorted the patrolman’s body to Mount Olivet Cemetery in Brooklyn.  It was the largest crowd to congregate at St. Margaret’s and was the talk of the parish for many years thereafter.  The funeral services were conducted by the rector, Rev. Frederick B. Hodgins, and Police Chaplain Reverend John A. Wade. 

The number of parishioners began to wane in the 1950’s but the church needed work and it was decided to begin a building fund.  Renovation work began on the current brick structure in 1961 and the resultant edifice is a beautiful monument to God.  Although the congregation is much, much smaller, it is still vibrant.  The church building is also used for numerous outreach groups such as the Food Pantry, the Girls Friendly Society, the Cub Scouts, the Sunday Morning Community Breakfast Program, the Friday Evening Young Men’s Basketball Program and numerous others.  The local American Legion Post also meets there and there is an after school program and a summer day camp at the church.  It serves the community well.  Theodora Nmade Brooks has been serving as rector since 1993 and Sunday services are held at 10:30 AM, Wednesdays at noon and Evening Prayers are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30 PM.  This beautiful church in the Longwood historic district merits a much larger congregation.

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