Baptist Church of the Epiphany - New York City
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Baptist Church of the Epiphany

723 Madison Avenue at 64th Street
New York, N.Y. 10021


Organ Specifications:
723 Madison Avenue at 64th Street (1883-c.1905)
III/34 J.H. & C.S. Odell, Op. 195 (1882)
West Fifty-third Street (1878-1883)
• William H. Davis (1868)
133 Madison Avenue at 31st Street (1862-1877)
• Henry Erben (1859)
Oliver Street (1802-1862) – Oliver Street Baptist Church
• unknown
Fayette Street, near Oliver (1791-1802)
• unknown


The Baptist Church of the Epiphany was organized on March 13, 1791, by the Rev. John Williams, a Welshman. It was the second Baptist church to be established in New York City. At the beginning, services were held in a building thirty feet square on Fayette Street, near Oliver Street, but in the following year, a church was erected in Fayette Street on property donated by Col. Rutgers. In 1802, the church moved to Oliver Street and was known as the Oliver Street Baptist Church. The congregation remained on Oliver Street for the next 60 years.

In 1862, the Oliver Street church was invited to consolidate with the Madison Avenue Baptist Church, which had built an edifice in 1858 on Madison Avenue and 31st Street. Due to the illness and absence of their pastor, the Madison Avenue church was suffering financial difficulties, and a few of the society's original incorporators thought it would wise to unite with another church. The Oliver Street congregation paid off the floating debt and assumed the mortgages, and took possession of the property, taking the name Madison Avenue Baptist Church. However, some of the original incorporators declared they had never authorized the transfer of property, and at a meeting of the society's incorporators in July, 1863, the Trustees were authorized to take necessary steps to recover the property, as the transfer was alleged to be invalid. Litigation ensued for 15 years, escalating to the Superior Court, and the original Madison Avenue congregation held services for some time in the Home of the Friendless on 29th Street. On March 19, 1878, a judge in the Court of Appeals decided that the Madison Avenue Society would pay about $70,000 to the Oliver Street Society in compensation for the money put into it since 1862, after which they regained possession of their former edifice.

From 1878-1881, the Oliver Street congregation (who retained the name Madison Avenue Baptist Church) rented the former Fifty-third Street Baptist Church, near Seventh Avenue. Property on the southeast corner of Madison Avenue and 64th Street was purchased, and a chapel was built there in 1881. About this time, the society was renamed the Baptist Church of the Epiphany. On June 3, 1883, a new church was opened on land adjacent to the chapel. The Gothic edifice had four "not very tall" towers and was built of red sandstone. The interior was rich without being showy: walls were a pale gray, and the minimal decoration was of pale blue and red, mingled with metallic colors in small quantities. The organ and choir gallery were at the rear of the reading desk. Woodwork was was of oiled oak, except the rafters, which were painted the same color as the walls with bits of a pale lake color. Lighting was provided by ten globe chandeliers, each having five arms of five lights each. The entire structure, church and adjoining chapel, cost nearly $200,000.

Epiphany Baptist Church was also known for the origin of Vacation Bible School when Mrs. Walter Aylette Hawes, the church's childrens director, sought to provide religious activities during the summer for the large number of immigrant children living in the East Side tenements. In July 1898, she rented a beer hall and offered an "Everyday Bible School" with a program of worship, music, Bible stories and scripture memorization, games, crafts, drawing, cooking, etc. In 1900, at the pastor's insistence, the Bible school was moved to the church building, but the East Side children would not attend programs at the church; Mrs. Hawes moved the school back to a site near the beer hall. By the time Mrs. Hawes retired in 1901, she was presiding over seven separate schools. Her succesful program was imitated by many denominations in the next decades.

The Baptist Church of the Epiphany never flourished on Madison Avenue, and in the early 1900s the society contemplated the sale of their property and a merger with another church. In 1905, the wealthy Fifth Avenue Baptist Church ("The Rockefeller Church") proposed a merger as they had to evacuate their building after the roof was found to be unsafe. This merger did not occur, and it is unknown when the Baptist Church of the Epiphany ceased to exist.
           
J.H. & C.S. Odell
New York City – Opus 195 (1882)
Mechanical action
3 manuals, 30 stops, 34 ranks
               
Great Organ (Manual II) – 58 notes
16
  Double Open Diapason
58
4
  Principal
58
8
  Open Diapason
58
2 2/3
  Twelfth
58
8
  Clarionet Flute [wood]
58
2
  Fifteenth
58
8
  Keraulophon
58
  Sesquialtera, 3 ranks
174
8
  Dulce d'Amour [grooved bass]
58
8
  Trumpet [harmonic treble]
58

     

     
Swell Organ (Manual III) – 58 notes, enclosed
16
  Bourdon [wood]
58
2
  Flageolet
58
8
  Open Diapason
58
 
  Mixture, 3 ranks
174
8
  Salicional
58
 8
  Cornopean
58
8
  Stopped Diapason [wood]
58
8
  Oboe
58
4
  Violina
58
8
  Vox Humana
58
4
  Forest Flute [wood]
58
    Tremulant  

     

     
Solo Organ (Manual I) – 58 notes
8
  Violin Diapason
58
4
  Flute [wood]
58
8
  Dulciana
58
2
  Piccolo
58
8
  Melodia [wood]
58
8
  Clarionet [TC]
46

     

     
Pedal Organ – 30 notes
16
  Double Open Diapason [wood]
30
8
  Bass Flute
30
16
  Bourdon
30
     
               
Couplers, Etc.
    Patent Reversible Coupler   Great to Pedal
    Swell to Great   Swell to Pedal
    Swell to Solo   Solo to Pedal
    Solo to Great   Bellows Signal
               
Pedal Movements
    Piano       Balanced Swell Pedal  
    Forte          
               
Patent Pneumatic Compositions on Great
1.
  Full
2.
  Full without Trumpet
3.
  Full without Sesquialtera and Trumpet
4.
  Open Diapason, Clarionet Flute, Keraulophon, Dulce d'Amour, Principal
5.
  Open Diapason, Clarionet Flute, Keraulophon, Dulce d'Amour
6.
  Clarionet Flute, Keraulophon, Dulce d'Amour
7.
  Keraulophon, Dulce d'Amour
8.
  Dulce d'Amour
               
Patent Pneumatic Compositions on Swell
1.
  Full
2.
  Bourdon, Open Diapason, Salicional, Stopped Diapason, Violina, Forest Flute, Oboe
3.
  Bourdon, Open Diapason, Salicional, Stopped Diapason, Violina, Forest Flute
4.
  Open Diapason, Salicional, Stopped Diapason, Violina
5.
  Open Diapason, Salicional, Stopped Diapason
6.
  Salicional, Stopped Diapason
7.
  Salicional
8.
  Forest Flute
               
    Pneumatic compensating valves to be applied to Great, Swell, Solo, and Pedal Organs. Pneumatic Tubular action to be applied to large front pipes.  
         
Organ in church located on West 53rd Street:

William H. Davis
New York City (1868)
Mechanical action


Specifications for this organ have not yet been located.
           
Sources:
     "An Interesting Anniversary: The Baptist Church of the Epiphany Celebrates its Centennial," The New York Times (May 11, 1891).
     Gertz, Steven. "From Beer to Bibles to VBS: How America got its favorite summer tradition," Christianity Today (June 1, 2003).
     Nickerson's Illustrated Church, Musical and School Directory of New York and Brooklyn. New York: Nickerson & Young, 1895.
     "Rockefeller Church May Sell Its Property," The New York Times (June 25, 1905).
     "Services in a New Church," The New York Times (June 4, 1883).
     Trupiano, Larry. Factory Specifications of J.H. & C.S. Odell Organ, Op. 195 (1882).

Illustration:
     Nickerson's Illustrated Church, Musical and School Directory of New York and Brooklyn. New York: Nickerson & Young, 1895. Exterior.