St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church - Brooklyn, N.Y. (photo: Matthew X. Kiernan, 2012)
 
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St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church

626 Bushwick Avenue at Jefferson Street
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11206



Organ Specifications:
626 Bushwick Avenue at Jefferson Street (since 1892)
II/29 Carl Barckhoff (1892) – reb. by Midmer-Losh (1945)
Evergreen Avenue at Jefferson Street (1869-1892)
• unknown





St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran German Church was organized on January 20, 1868, by a group of thirty German residents of the 18th Ward, with the Rev. F.F. Flath of East New York consenting to be the temporary pastor. The society held its first service on Sunday, January 26, 1868, in a rented hall at the corner of Bushwick and Myrtle Avenues. In short time, a plot of land measuring 100 by 100 feet on Evergreen Avenue at the head of Jefferson Street was purchased for $900, and constuction began on a church structure. As designed by Henry F. Nolte, a member of the congregation, the edifice could accomodate about 500 people and was "an excellent example of a fine church for a small amount of money." Henry Reed Stiles described the church in his 1870 tome, A History of the City of Brooklyn:

"The building is a frame structure above an ample basement of brick and stone, and its dimensions are forty-four feet front by seventy-four feet deep, and has an elevation of forty feet with a small belfry. The exterior is painted white with grained walnut trimmings, and presents a picturesque and neat appearance. The cost of the church complete was $15,000, of which sum more than two-thirds has been paid by voluntary subscriptions."
Original St. Mark's Ev. Lutheran Church building (1922) - Brooklyn, N.Y.  
Original Church on Evergreen Avenue after it was sold to an undertaker (1922)  

On August 30, 1868, the cornerstone was laid, and the completed edifice was dedicated on June 26, 1869. At the same time, the Rev. G.A. Schmidt, of Meriden, Conn., was installed as the first permanent pastor. A day school was of great importance to the society, and soon they had erected a school building at a cost of $2,250. Pastor Schmidt stayed but twenty months and was succeeded by the Rev. August Emil Frey, of Hudson, N.Y., who was pastor until his death in 1905.

By the 1880s the Bushwick neighborhood was bustling with German beer breweries and an influx of German immigrants. St. Mark's church building could not accomodate the increasing number of worshippers, and the thriving day school had outgrown its building. The society purchased a large piece of property on Bushwick Avenue that included the corners of Jefferson and Troutman Streets. On the Jefferson Street corner a new school was secured by remodeling an old house and adding an extension. This school was dedicated on October 4, 1885.

Four years later, in 1889, the school was again too small and it was decided to build a new school, church and rectory on the Bushwick Avenue property. As designed by Theodore Englehardt, the church and school would have a continuous street frontage of 120 feet along Bushwick Avenue, and the rectory would rise behind the church along Jefferson Street. All three buildings were in the Victorian Gothic style and constructed of Philadelphia brick, Nova Scotia sandstone, granite and terra cotta. The school was completed as soon as possible and on Sunday, October 19, 1890, it was dedicated. Built on an 80’ by 40’ lot adjoining the church, the front portion of the schoolhouse was two stories high and would be used by the church societies, the board of trustees, and the janitor, while the rear portion was three stories high with four classrooms on each floor. A playground and cellar were available for recreation.

16-bell Stuckstede Chime in St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church - Brooklyn, N.Y. (photo: Dave Schmauch)  
View of the 16-bell Stuckstede Chime  
Stuckstede Chimestand in St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church - Brooklyn, N.Y. (photo: Dave Schmauch)  
Chimestand in Tower  
Construction on the church and rectory began in the autumn of 1890, and the cornerstone was laid in April of 1891. The church is 60 feet wide by 102 feet deep and 67 feet high from the ground to the apex of the roof, and the tower is surmounted by a spire that rises to the height of 193 feet. In the upper portion of the tower is a Seth Thomas clock, below which is an unusually large Chime of 16 bells weighing a total of 24,000 pounds that was cast by the Henry Stuckstede Bell Foundry Co. of St. Louis, Mo. The three-story-and-basement rectory adjoins the church and is 20 feet wide by 58 feet deep.

The church has five entrances, a gallery that extends around three sides, and seating for 1,200 people. Richmond cherry was used for the pulpit, pews and woodwork, while the altar and baptismal font are carved from Carrara marble. Flanking the altar are mural paintings of Moses and John the Baptist. Stained glass windows depict ten subjects and provide soft illumination for the interior. In the rear gallery is an organ built by Carl Barckhoff of Salem, Ohio. The completed church was consecrated during a series of services on Sunday, May 22, 1892.

When St. Mark's opened toward the end of the 19th century, Bushwick enjoyed tremendous prosperity due to its brewery industry. In 1890 there were 14 breweries operating in a 14-block area known as "Brewer's Row," and Bushwick became known as the "beer capital of the Northeast." Following World War II, Bushwick declined as breweries ceased operations and residents moved to other boroughs or out of the city altogether. By the 1970s, Bushwick had become a haven for drugs and gangs. During the 1977 Blackout, Bushwick saw some of the most devastating damages and losses due to arson, looting and rioting. At the beginning of the 21st century, crime had decreased significantly, but the vibrant community of a hundred years earlier had all but disappeared and St. Mark's congregation had dwindled to a handful of members.

In June 2011, the church’s .6-acre lot was listed for sale for $5 million. 
               
  Carl Barckhoff organ (1892) in St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church - Brooklyn, N.Y. (photo: Dave Schmauch)
   
Carl Barckhoff
Salem, Ohio (1892)
Originally mechanical action
Electrified and 3-manual console by Midmer-Losh (1945)
3 manuals, 25 stops, 29 ranks



The organ in the present church was originally built in 1892 by Carl Barckhoff of Salem, Ohio. As described in the Brooklyn Eagle (May 23, 1892), the organ had two manuals, a compass of 58 notes, and 1,589 pipes. To open the organ, a recital and concert under the direction of Alexander Riehm was given on Monday evening, June 6, with organist Henry E. Browne performing selections from Bach, Flotow, Rossini, Wagner and others. Also on the programme were the St. Mark's musical society orchestra, directed by W.C. Jagy, the St. Mark's male chorus, and a mixed quartet.

In 1945, the Midmer-Losh Organ Company of Merrick, N.Y. electrified the organ and installed a new three-manual console that was prepared for a future Choir division. The stop-key console has 61-note manuals and a 32-note pedalboard, but it unknown if Midmer-Losh extended the manual and pedal ranks with additional pipes, or if the old Barckoff chests were replaced.

The organ was unplayable in 2012.
               
Great Organ (Manual II) – 58 notes
16
  Open Diapason
58
4
  Flute Transverso [sic]
58
8
  Open Diapason
58
2 2/3
  Twelfth
58
8
  Doppel Flute
58
2
  Super Octave
58
8
  Gamba
58
  Mixture III ranks
174
8
  Dulciana
58
8
  Trumpet
58
4
  Octave
58
     
               
Swell Organ (Manual III) – 58 notes, enclosed
16
  Bourdon
58
4
  Flute Harmonic
58
8
  Open Diapason
58
2
  Piccolo
58
8
  Geigen Diapason
58
    Cornet III ranks
174
8
  Stopped Diapason
58
8
  Oboe
58
8
  Salicional
58
8
  Cornopean
58
4
  Fugara
58
  Tremulant
               
Choir Organ (Manual I) – console preparation only
  7 Blank Tabs
   
               
Pedal Organ – 27 notes
16
  Open Diapason
27
8
  Violoncello
27
16
  Bourdon
27
   
               
Couplers
    Great to Pedal   Swell to Choir 16', 8', 4'
    Swell to Pedal   Great 4'
    Choir to Pedal   Swell 16', 4', Unison Off
    Swell to Great 16', 8', 4'   Choir 16', 4', Unison Off
    Choir to Great 16', 8', 4'    
               
Combinations
   
Swell Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5
Great Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5
Choir Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5
Pedal Organ unknown
Full Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5
               
Carl Barckhoff organ (1892) in St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church - Brooklyn, N.Y. (photo: Dave Schmauch)   Carl Barckhoff organ (1892) in St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church - Brooklyn, N.Y. (photo: Jenny Rogers)   Carl Barckhoff organ (1892) in St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church - Brooklyn, N.Y. (photo: Dave Schmauch)
               
Sources:
     "Church News," The Lutheran Witness (Apr. 2, 1918).
     Haberstroh, Richard. The German Churches of Metropolitan New York: A Research Guide. New York: The New York Genealogical & Biographical Society, 2000.
     Nelson, George. Organs in the United States and Canada Database. Seattle, Wash.
     "New St. Mark's. Ceremonies at the Dedication of the Church," Brooklyn Eagle (May 23, 1892).
     "New St. Mark's. The Cornerstone of the Church Laid Yesterday," Brooklyn Eagle (Apr. 13, 1891).
     "Organ Recital and Concert," Brooklyn Eagle (Jun. 8, 1892).
     Rogers, Jenny. "Historic Preservation Raises Questions in Brooklyn Neighborhood." jennyrogers07.wordpress.com. (Dec. 5, 2011).
     Stiles, Henry Reed. History of the City of Brooklyn: Including the Old Town and Village of Brooklyn, the Town of Bushwick, and the Village and City of Williamsburgh. Vol. III. Brooklyn: pub. by subscription, 1870.
     Tower Bells web site: http://www.towerbells.org/data/NYBRKLSM.HTM

Illustrations:
     Kiernan, Matthew X. Exterior (2012). © Matthew X. Kiernan/New York Big Apple Images.
     Rogers, Jenny. Interior showing organ case and flags.
     Schmauch, Dave. Chimes and Chimestand; Interior; Midmer-Losh Organ (2012).