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John Street United Methodist Church

44 John Street
New York, N.Y. 10038
http://www.johnstreetchurch.org

Organ Specifications:
Third building (since 1841):
II/20 Ernest M. Skinner & Son Co. (1946)
II/9 Reuben Midmer & Sons (>1888)
Second building (1818-1841):
• unknown
First building (1768-1817):
• unknown


In 1760, a number of Irish Methodists, including the Emburys and the Hecks, immigrated to New York City. Some of the group departed from Methodist ways, to Barbara Heck's distress. She persuaded Philip Embury to begin preaching again, and in October 1766 he began holding regular services in his home.

The services soon outgrew the Embury home, and the Methodist Society began meeting in rented facilities; first on Barrack Street and then on Horse and Cart (now William) Street. The latter was called "The Old Rigging Loft" because the upper story was sometimes used to rig ships' sails.

Wesley Chapel - the first John Street Methodist Church - New York City  
Wesley Chapel  
Philip Embury was soon joined in the pulpit by Captain Thomas Webb, a British officer and a licensed Methodist lay preacher. By 1768, the congregation had outgrown the rigging loft, and on March 30, 1768, two lots on nearby John Street were purchased. The first building erected on this site was called Wesley Chapel and was dedicated on October 30, 1768. It was the first permanent home of America's oldest continuous congegation. A trustee, Thomas Taylor, wrote John Wesley about the chapel's construction and requested financial help and spiritual leadership. In response, Wesley sent the first two Methodist missionaries, Joseph Pilmore and Richard Boardman, to America. They were soon followed by others, most notably Francis Asbury.

The Hecks and Emburys left New York City in 1770, but the work at John Street continued. Francis Asbury preached there numerous times, and early General Conferences held their sessions in the chapel.

A slave named Peter Williams was one of many African American members of Philip Embury's society. He became sexton of Wesley Chapel and, with James Varick and others, formed what later became the Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

1818 building for John Street Methodist Church - New York City  
1818 building  
In 1817, Wesley Chapel was torn down and replaced by a larger chapel that was dedicated in 1818. This second chapel was later razed when plans were made to widen John Street from Broadway to the East River.

  1818 building for John Street Methodist Church - New York City
  1841 building
The third chapel, smaller than the one that it replaced, is the current building for John Street Methodist Church. Built in 1841, the church incorporates the heavy-timber roof trusses and much of the masonry shell from the second building. Over the years, the interior of the church has been redecorated several times, and the organ was relocated from the left side gallery to the back.

Despite the plain architectural design of the exterior, the church was designated in 1965 by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and is a Heritage Landmark of the United Methodist Church. John Street Church was listed in 1973 by the National Register of Historic Places.

Old interior of John Street Methodist Church - New York City   John Street Methodist Church - New York City
               
  Ernest M. Skinner & Son organ (c.1936) in John Street United Methodist Church - New York City
   
Ernest M. Skinner & Son Co.
Reading, Mass. (1946)
Electro-pneumatic action
2 manuals, 30 registers, 18 stops, 20 ranks


The present organ, located in the rear gallery, was installed in 1946 by the Ernest M. Skinner & Son Company. It seems likely that this organ was originally built by E.M. Skinner for a residence installation, then modified and enlarged by E.M. Skinner & Son for use in the church. The relocated console has two swell expression pedals, but only one is used as the the organ is now installed in one chamber.
               
Great Organ (Manual I) – 61 notes, enclosed
8
  Diapason
61
4
  Flute
SW
8
  Geigen Principal
SW
2 2/3
  Twelfth
61
8
  Gedackt
SW
2
  Fifteenth
61
8
  Flauto Dolce
SW
    Mixture III ranks
SW
8
  Flute Celeste
SW
8
  Flügel Horn
SW
4
  Prestant
61
    Chimes *  

     

     
Swell Organ (Manual II) – 61 notes, enclosed
8
  Diapason
73
    Mixture III ranks
183
8
  Gedackt
73
8
  Flügel Horn
73
8
  Flauto Dolce
73
2 2/3
  Nazard *
61
8
  Flute Celeste (TC)
61
8
  Harmonic Trumpet *
85
8
  Salicional
73
4
  Clarion * (fr. Harm. Tpt.)
8
  Voix Celeste (TC)
61
    Harp *  
4
  Flute (Harmonic)
73
    Tremolo *  
2
  Violina
61
       

     

     
Pedal Organ – 32 notes, enclosed
16
  Violone
56
5 1/3
  Quinte (fr. Bourdon)
16
  Bourdon
44
4
  Viola (fr. Violone)
8
  Gedackt (fr. Bourdon)
    Chimes *  
8
  Cello (fr. Violone)
       
* by rocking tablets in the coupler rail
Couplers
    Great to Pedal 8'       Swell to Great 16', 8', 4'  
    Swell to Pedal 8', 4'       Swell 16', 4'  
               
Combinations
   
Swell Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4 (thumb)
Great Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4 (thumb)
Pedal Organ Pistons 1-2-3 (toe)
Full Organ Pistons 1-2-3 (thumb)
Full Organ Pistons I-II-III (thumb) – fixed, blind
           
Reversibles
    Swell to Pedal Reversible (thumb)   Sforzando (toe spoon)  
    Great to Pedal Reversible (thumb & toe spoon)      
               
Expression
    Balanced Swell Pedal (left, not connected)      
    Balanced Swell Pedal (middle)      
    Crescendo Pedal (right)      
               
  Reuben Midmer & Son organ in John Street Methodist Church - New York City
Reuben Midmer & Sons
Brooklyn, NY (>1888)
Tubular-pneumatic action?
2 manuals, 9 stops, 9 ranks


The first known organ for John Street Methodist Church was built by Reuben Midmer & Sons of Brooklyn who installed it in the gallery to the left of the pulpit. An 1888 photo of the church interior does not show an organ in this location, so the Midmer organ was installed at a later date.

The following specification is from the files of Louis F. Mohr & Co., an organ service firm active from 1899-1982 in the New York area. Mohr's typed specification, dated December 1913, notes that an electric motor worked the feeders, and the compasses were 61 notes (manuals) and 30 notes (pedal). A handwritten entry from April 1945 states, "Have DC current still." Mohr did not indicate the type of action used, but it may be that the organ originally had mechanical action and was later converted to tubular-pneumatic.
               
Great Organ (Manual I) – 61 notes
8
  Open Diapason
61
8
  Melodia
61
8
  Dulciana
61
4
  Octave
61

     

     
Swell Organ (Manual II) – 61 notes, enclosed
8
  Open Diapason
61
8
  Stopped Diapason
61
8
  Salicional
61
4
  Flute Harmonic
61

     

     
Pedal Organ – 30 notes
16
  Bourdon
30
       
               
Couplers
    Great to Pedal       Swell to Great 16', 8', 4'  
    Swell to Pedal          
               
Combinations
    2 combinations – piano & forte   Wind indicator  
    Full organ      
               
Pedal Movements (assumed but not listed)
    [Balanced Swell Pedal]   [Tremolo]  
               
Sources:
     Aeolian-Skinner Archives website: http://aeolianskinner.organsociety.org/
     Dolkart, Andrew S. and Matthew A. Postal. Guide to New York City Landmarks (Third Edition). New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2004.
     The General Commission on Archives and History, The United Methodist Church, web site: http://www.gcah.org/Heritage_Landmarks/John.htm.
     Mohr, Louis F. Co. Specification of Reuben Midmer & Sons organ. Courtesy Larry Trupiano.
     Kinzey, Allen, and Sand Lawn, comps. E.M. Skinner/Aeolian-Skinner Opus List. New Rev. Ed. Richmond: The Organ Historical Society, 1997.
     Old Structures website: http://www.oldstructures.com/Projects.html
     Rogers, Raynor R. The Story of Old John Street Church. New York: The John Street Press, 1984. Courtesy Sand Lawn.
     Trupiano, Larry. Specification of E.M. Skinner & Son organ.
     Two Hundred Years of United Methodism, An Illustrated History web site: http://oldwww.drew.edu/books/200Years/gallery/gal016.htm.
     Wilson, James Grant, ed. The Memorial History of the City of New York from Its First Settlement to the Year 1892. New York: New-York History Company, 1893.
     The WPA Guide to New York City: The Federal Writers Project Guide to 1930s New York. New York: The New Press, 1939.

Illustrations:
     eBay.com: Postcards of early interior showing Midmer organ; early chancel; present chancel.
     Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online: watercolors of Wesley Chapel, second church, present church.
     Rogers, Raynor R. The Story of Old John Street Church: painting of old church exterior.
     Stein, Ken: Ernest M. Skinner & Son organ.
     Two Hundred Years of United Methodism, An Illustrated History web site: Hand tinted engraving printed by I. B. and P. C. Smith, New York, ca.1836.