Church of St. Joseph (Yorkville) - New York City (Photo: St. Joseph Church)

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Church of St. Joseph – Yorkville
(Roman Catholic)

408 East 87th Street near First Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10128
http://stjosephsyorkville.org



Organ Specifications:
Present building (since 1895):
II/38 Müller & Abel, Op. 9 (1895)
First building (1874-1895):
• unknown



Between 1820 and 1880, thousands of German and Irish immigrants arrived in New York City as men, women and children left their homeland to escape civil unrest, persecution and the repeated failure of the potato crop. Initially, many of the Germans settled in what became known as Kleine Deutschland (Little Germany), a section of the city east of the Bowery and extending from Houston Street to 12th Street. The church was an important part of their new community. At the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer on 3rd Street, the Redemptorist Fathers tended to some 10,000 German Catholics who came to Mass every Sunday morning. Responding to all their needs, the priests built an orphan asylum uptown in Yorkville, where open fields, woodland and clean, fresh air provided a proper environment for destitute children. It was in the chapel of St. Joseph's Asylum, which was located at 89th Street and York Avenue, that the parish church had its beginnings.

St. Joseph's Church Yorkville (1874) - New York City (Photo: St. Joseph's Church)
St. Joseph's Church (1874)
Following the Civil War, many German families were seeking more pleasant surroundings, and were particularly attracted to Yorkville, which extended from 59th to 96th Street, and from the East River to Fifth Avenue. The newly constructed Second and Third Avenue elevated trains provided easy access to Ehret's and Ruppert's Breweries in the East 90s, and brownstones and tenements were built to house the laborers. The influx of Catholics soon overflowed Yorkville's primary church, St. Lawrence O'Toole (now St. Ignatius Loyola), founded in 1851 on East 84th Street, and the chapel of St. Joseph's Asylum. In 1873, a delegation went to the Jesuit Fathers at St. Lawrence's to request a German-speaking priest to help them start a parish of their own. The Jesuits agreed and Archbishop John McCloskey approved the formation of a German national parish without boundaries. On April 26, 1874, the first St. Joseph's Church, described as a "handsome brick building with a steeple that could have been lifted right out of the Black Forest", was dedicated by Archbishop McCloskey, who would become the first American Cardinal the next year. For twenty years it was the center for not only German families in Yorkville, but also for others in the community, especially the Irish. A school was begun in a converted hall in the orphanage, and in December 1880, a new school building was opened to accomodate 500 children.

 

St. Joseph's Church Yorkville (Interior c.1920) - New York City (Photo: St. Joseph's Church)

  Church interior (1920s)
As Yorkville's population continued to increase, so did the number of area Catholics. St. Joseph's was recognized as the uptown church for German-speaking Catholics who moved into the area to have their children attend St. Joseph's school. Within a few years, St. Joseph's outgrew their 1874 church, so plans were made for a new and larger church on East 87th Street. On November 3, 1895, the present church, designed by William Schickel & Company, was dedicated; it included a steeple with three bells and a noble Müller & Abel organ in the gallery.

Church of St. Joseph (Yorkville) - New York City (Photo: John Rust)  
Church interior (2005)  
The interior of the new church was decorated with copies of paintings of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary by an artist named Schmalzl. A baldachino or canopy of simulated marble was erected over the high altar. Over the years, the church interior has been altered and redecorated. A parish campaign in 1990-91 provided funding for the restoration of the the stained glass windows and ceiling murals, a new tile floor, painting of the interior, and the restoration of the historic 1895 Müller and Abel organ.
           

Müllet & Abel Organ (1893) - Church of St. Joseph (Yorkville) - New York City (Photo: John Rust)
Müller & Abel
New York City – Opus 9 (1895)
Electro-pneumatic action
2 manuals, 33 stops, 38 ranks





Oscar Müller and George Abel, both German immigrants, were employed in the Roosevelt Organ Works of New York, Philadelphia and Boston, the preeminent organ builders from 1870 through 1893. When the Roosevelt firm ceased operations, Müller and Abel established their own factory in New York City, building sixty-two organs between 1893 and 1902.

St. Joseph’s organ was built by Müller & Abel in 1895 and installed upon completion of the present church building in that same year. The conception of the windchest mechanism of St. Joseph’s organ was entirely original with Müller & Abel, and was designed to allow more wind to gently enter the pipes. This unique feature, together with the unenclosed Great division—which was atypical of the period—produces a full, resonant sound, similar to a large cathedral organ.

The organ at St. Joseph’s survives essentially intact, although the original console was replaced in the 1960s. While the console was updated with solid-state equipment, all of the original pipework and electro-pneumatic chests remain as they were over a hundred years ago. The instrument, which has been exceptionally well-maintained throughout its history, was rebuilt in 1994 by John Randolph and in 2004 by Meloni & Farrier.
               
Great Organ (Manual I) – 61 notes
16
  Open Diapason
61
4
  Hohl Flute
61
16
  Bourdon
61
2 2/3
  Quint
61
8
  Open Diapason
61
2
  Super Octave [ext.]
12
8
  Gamba
61
    Mixture, 5 ranks
305
8
  Doppel Flute
61
8
  Trumpet
61
8
  Dulciana
61
   
Chimes
20 tubes
4
  Octave
61
       
               
Swell Organ (Manual II) – 61 notes, enclosed
16
  Bourdon
61
4
  Gemshorn
61
8
  Open Diapason
61
2
  Flageolet
61
8
  Spitz Flöte
61
    Cornet, 4 ranks
244
8
  Stopped Diapason
61
8
  Cornopean
61
8
  Salicional
61
8
  Oboe
61
8
  Aeoline
61
    Tremulant  
4
  Flauto Traverso
61
       
               
Pedal Organ – 32 notes
16
  Open Diapason
32
8
  Cello
32
16
  Bourdon
32
4
  Super Octave [ext.]
12
10 2/3
  Quint
32
16
  Trombone
32
8
  Octave
32
       
               
Couplers
    Great to Pedal 8'   Great 4'
    Swell to Pedal 8', 4'   Swell 16', Unison Off, 4'
    Swell to Great 16', 8', 4'    
               
Adjustable Combinations
   
Swell Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6 (thumb)
Great Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6 (thumb)
Pedal Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4 (thumb & toe)
Entire Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 (thumb & toe)
  General Cancel (thumb)
  Set (thumb)
               
Mechanicals
    Swell to Pedal Reversible (thumb & toe)   Balanced Swell Pedal
    Great to Pedal Reversible (thumb & toe)   Register Crescendo Pedal
    Sforzando (thumb & toe)    
               
Müllet & Abel Organ (1893) - Church of St. Joseph (Yorkville) - New York City (Photo: John Rust)   Müllet & Abel Organ (1893) - Church of St. Joseph (Yorkville) - New York City (Photo: John Rust)   Müllet & Abel Organ (1893) - Church of St. Joseph (Yorkville) - New York City (Photo: John Rust)
             
Sources:
     The Bicentennial Tracker. Richmond: The Organ Historical Society, 1976.
     Dunlap, David W. From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan's Houses of Worship. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.
     Ochse, Orpha. The History of the Organ in the United States. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975.
     Ogasapian, John. Organ Building in New York City: 1700-1900. Braintree: The Organ Literature Foundation, 1977.
     St. Joseph's Church 125th Anniversary booklet, 1998.
     St. Joseph's Yorkville web site: http://stjosephsyorkville.org

Illustrations:
     St. Joseph's Church 125th Anniversary booklet, 1998. Vintage photos.
     Lawson, Steven E. Color interior; Müller & Abel organ, Op. 9 (1895).