1910 Postcard of the Episcopal Chapel of St. Cornelius the Centurion - Governors Island, New York City
 
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Chapel of St. Cornelius the Centurion
(Episcopal)

Governors Island
New York Harbor
New York, N.Y. 10004


Organ Specifications:
Present Chapel (since 1905)
• Rodgers Instruments electronic (1990s)
II/6 M.P. Möller, Op. 8673 (1954)
• II/18 Hook & Hastings, Op. 2115 (1906)
Original Chapel (1847-1905)
• unknown, if any

Aerial View of Governors Island, New York City  
Governors Island is located in the New York Harbor, approximately one-half mile from Battery Park in Lower Manhattan and one-quarter mile from Brooklyn. Its waterfront offers some of the most dramatic and impressive vistas of the New York skyline and New York Harbor, including the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Physically, the Island changed greatly during the early twentieth century. Using rocks and dirt from the excavations for the Lexington Avenue Subway, the Army Corps of Engineers supervised the deposit of 4,787,000 cubic yards of fill on the south side of Governors Island, adding 103 acres of flat, treeless land by 1912, and bringing the total acreage of the Island to 172. The island has nearly 225 buildings, considerable open space, and recreational amenities. The northern half of the Island, consisting of approximately 92 acres, has been designated as both a National Historic Landmark District and a New York City Historic District, and features late 18th and early 19th century fortifications, pre-Civil War arsenal buildings, Victorian and Romanesque Revival housing, as well as early 20th century neo-classical architecture. Five buildings within the Historic District, including Fort Jay and Castle Williams, are individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Native Americans of the Manhattan region referred to the island as Pagganck (“Nut Island”) after the Island’s plentiful hickory, oak and chestnut trees. In June of 1637, Wouter Van Twiller, representative of Holland, purchased the island from the Native Americans of Manahatas for two ax heads, a string of beads, and a handful of nails. The Island, thereafter known as Noten Eylant or Nutten Island, was confiscated by the Dutch Government a year later. In 1664 the English captured New Amsterdam, renaming it New York, and took Nutten Island, which had been left unfortified by the Dutch. The island, however, switched hands between the British and the Dutch over the next 10 years until the British regained exclusive control of the island for the “benefit and accommodation of His Majesty's Governors.” Although it was not officially named until 1784, it thus came to be called Governors Island.

The island’s strategic location resulted in its use as a military facility by British and American forces for over 200 years. In 1794, with the country in need of a system of coastal defenses, construction began on Fort Jay, on high ground in the center of the Island. In 1800, New York transferred the Island to the United States government for military purposes. During the American Civil War, it was used for recruitment and as a prison for captured Confederate soldiers. Throughout World Wars I and II, the Island served as an important supply base for Army ground and air forces.

With the consolidation of U.S. Military forces in 1966, the island was transferred to the Coast Guard, making it their largest installation. Governors Island served as a self-contained residential community, with an on-island population of approximately 3,500, and as a base of operations for the Atlantic Area Command and Maintenance and Logistics Command as well as the Captain of the Port of New York. In 1995, the Coast Guard closed its facilities on Governors Island and all residential personnel were relocated. President Clinton designated 22 acres of the island, including the two great forts, as the Governors Island National Monument in January 2001, and on April 1, 2002, it was announced that the United States of America would sell Governors Island to the people of New York for a nominal cost. On January 31, 2003, the island was transferred to the people of New York through the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation.

Original Chapel of St. Cornelius the Centurion - Governors Island, New York City  
Original chapel  
   
The original chapel on Governors Island dates back to 1846 when the Rev. John McVickar, D.D., was appointed chaplain for the Army servicemen and their families on the island. Services were held under the trees in fair weather, and in the post headquarters at other times. Dr. McVickar soon campaigned for an adequate post chapel, but the Government was not accustomed to building chapels, nor was it willing to make an appropriation for the purpose. Dr. McVickar counted among his friends the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, General Scott, and shortly the Government agreed to lease about 150 feet square on the south side of the island as a site for a chapel, subject to the exigencies of war. The chaplain set about raising private subscriptions for a chapel, and received a generous contribution from the corporation of Trinity Church, New York. In 1847, "a neat and tasteful church-like building of wood" was constructed after the chaplain's own plans from funds collected by himself. Thereafter, from 1846 to 1855, Trinity Church made an annual appropriation for its support, and in 1868, the chapel became part of Trinity Parish.

  Original Chapel of St. Cornelius the Centurion - Governors Island, New York City
  Original chapel with new chapel at rear
By the beginning of the 20th century, the 1847 chapel was in such disrepair that Trinity deemed it unsalvageable. In 1905, the Army accepted Trinity's offer to build a new chapel, and in October, 1905, the cornerstone was laid for the present building. Just a year later, on October 19, 1906, the new chapel with the old name, the Chapel of St. Cornelius the Centurion, was dedicated by Bishop David Greer, assisted by the clergy of Trinity Parish, New York. The music for the occasion was furnished by the choir of Trinity Church, under the direction of Mr. Victor Baier, and by the choir of the post chapel, under the direction of Lt. A. F. Halpin (retired), the post organist.

Episcopal Chapel of St. Cornelius the Centurion - Governors Island, New York City  
   
   
The new chapel was designed by Charles C. Haight in the English Gothic style of the 14th century. It is a cruciform structure of buff Indiana limestone with a massive tower, nave, transepts, chancel, and side chapel. The total length is 106 feet and the greatest width 70 feet. Carved oak clergy and choir seats are provided, while the nave and St. Albans Chapel have chairs. The clergy and choir sacristies and the organ are on the south side of the chancel. Under the chancel is a mortuary chapel, and the roof of this and the entire crypt is vaulted with flat Italian tile. Until recently the chapel housed historically significant battle flags and other symbolic relics.

Governors Island has two other chapels: Our Lady, Star of the Sea (Roman Catholic, built in 1942) and a Jewish Chapel.
           
Rodgers Instruments LLC
Hillsboro, Ore. – Model 926 (1980s)
Electronic tonal production
2 manuals


In the 1980s, the Möller organ was replaced by a two-manual electronic built by Rodgers Instruments. Specifications for this organ are not been located.
           
  M.P. Möller Organ, Op. 8673 (1954) in St. Cornelius the Centurion Episcopal Chapel - Governors Island, New York City
M.P. Möller, Inc.
Hagerstown, Md. – Opus 8673 (1954)
Electro-pneumatic action
2 manuals, 26 stops, 6 ranks, 459 pipes




In 1954, the M.P. Möller Company installed a "Double Artiste" instrument in a chamber on the right side of the chancel. The facade from the original Hook & Hastings organ was retained. Möller provided a two-manual console with tilting tablets.
               
Great Organ (Manual I) – 61 notes, enclosed
16
  Bourdon
92
2
  Super Octave [repeat top 5]
8
  Diapason
80
2
  Flute [repeat top 5 notes]
8
  Gedeckt
1 1/3
  Larigot [repeat top 12 notes]
4
  Octave
   
Chimes
preparation
4
  Flute
    Tremulant  
2 2/3
  Nazard
61
       

 

     

 

     
Swell Organ (Manual II) – 61 notes, enclosed
8
  Salicional
80
16
  Trompette [CCC-FF half length]
85
4
  Nachthorn
61
8
  Trompette
4
  Salicet
4
  Trompette
2
  Salicetina [repeat top 5 notes]
    Tremulant  
               
Pedal Organ – 32 notes
16
  Bourdon
GT
4
  Salicet
SW
8
  Diapason
GT
4
  Bourdon
GT
8
  Salicional
SW
16
  Trompette
SW
8
  Bourdon
GT
8
  Trompette
SW
4
  Octave
GT
4
  Trompette
SW
               
Coupler
    Swell to Great          
               
Pedal Movements
    Balanced Expression Pedal – Great Organ [8 stages]  
    Balanced Expression Pedal – Swell Organ [8 stages]  
    Balanced Crescendo Pedal  
               
Stop Analysis
     
Pipes
16
  Bourdon/Gedeckt
92
8
  Diapason
80
2 2/3
  Nazard
61
8
  Salicional
80
4
  Nachthorn
61
16
  Trompette
    85
   
Total
459
           
Hook & Hastings Co.
Boston, Mass. – Opus 2115 (1906)
Mechanical action
2 manuals, 18 stops


The original organ in the present St. Cornelius Chapel was built in 1906 by the Hook & Hastings Company of Boston. Specifications for this organ have not yet been located.
           
Sources:
     Brooklyn Geneology web site: www.bklyn-genealogy-info.com
     Dunlap, David W. From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan's Houses of Worship. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.
     Governors Island Alliance web site: www.governorsislandalliance.org
     Governors Island Preservation & Education Corporation website: www.govisland.com
     Smith, Edmund Banks. "The New Chapel of St. Cornelius the Centurion," Army and Navy Life and the United Service, Vol. X, No. 1 (January 1907).
     Trupiano, Larry. Factory Specifications of M.P. Möller Organ, Op. 8673 (1954).

Illustrations:
     Army and Navy Life and the United Service, Vol. X, No. 1 (January 1907). Old chapel exterior; new chapel exterior and interior.
     Brooklyn Geneology web site. Original chapel.
     eBay.com. 1910 postcard of present chapel.
     Governors Island Alliance web site. Color exterior of present chapel.
     Trupiano, Larry. Organ case; chapel interior.