St. Luke Episcopal Church - Harlem, New York City
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St. Luke Episcopal Church

435 West 141st Street at Convent Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10031

Organ Specifications:
435 West 141st Street at Convent Avenue (since 1892)
IV/38 Austin Organ Company, Op. 284 (1912)
• L. C. Harrison (1886) – moved from old church (c.1892)
485 Hudson Street near Barrow Street (1822-1889)
• L. C. Harrison (1886)
• II/ George Earle (1871)
• II/18 Henry Erben (1830)
• Thomas Redstone (1824)

Church of St. Luke-in-the-Fields - New York City  
In 1820, homeowners in the West Village, including Don Alonzo Cushman, a developer who built much of Chelsea, and Clement Clarke Moore, another prominent landowner, known as the author of ''A Visit From St. Nicholas'' (though his authorship has been questioned), established St. Luke's Church to serve the new neighborhood. In 1822 they built the simple brick house of worship that still survives at 485 Hudson Street, near Barrow Street – it is now known as the Church of St. Luke-in-the-Fields. By the 1880s the Village was no longer an area of elite private houses. Tenements full of immigrants were encroaching on all sides. But St. Luke's remained an elite Episcopal parish.

The vestry received a shock in 1887 when Trinity Church, at Wall Street and Broadway, notified St. Luke's that it would soon be building a new complex to serve the immigrant population, on land it owned on the east side of Hudson Street between St. Luke's Place and Clarkson Street, just a few blocks south. The Trinity complex was never built, but at the time St. Luke's felt that the plan would effectively extinguish its own existence, in part because Trinity subsidized St. Luke's, and that subsidy would soon end. After a protest, Trinity offered to pay St. Luke's $150,000 for its property, according to Penelope Tuttle's 1927 book, ''History of St. Luke's Church.'' St. Luke's accepted, and the church decided to move, she wrote, ''far enough north to be sure of peace for at least a good long term of years.'' This turned out to be the northeast corner of 141st Street and Convent Avenue, at the edge of a high plateau with an emerging stock of sizable row houses.

In 1889, St. Luke's held its first uptown service, not in its present church but in the 1802 house of Alexander Hamilton on the next lot up, just north of 141st Street -- it had moved the Hamilton house from 143rd Street and Convent Avenue to make way for more row houses. The vestry was struggling for cash and seriously considered building only a basement on the steeply sloping 141st Street site. But in 1891 the architect Robert H. Robertson designed an ambitious new church, which opened the next year. Robertson had become prominent in the 1880's for his deft, vigorous modeling of the Romanesque style, often in rock-faced brownstone, for church and other designs, including the Young Women's Christian Association building at 7 East 15th Street.

Apparently because of continuing financial difficulties, St. Luke's had to cut back on its plans, leaving until a later time much of the stone carving and a tall, square corner tower. (Some carving was eventually done, but the corner tower was never built.) Writing in The Architectural Record in 1896, the critic Montgomery Schuyler praised the church and noted that the uncarved ornament contributed to the impressive severity of the design. But he did remark that the finished building ''suffers from the absence of the tower designed for it.''

The completed church, mostly in deep red brownstone, presents a broad porch facing Convent Avenue. A side elevation of multiple arcades on 141st Street, which drops steeply to the east, reveals the broad rear facade. The architectural historian Andrew Dolkart calls this perspective ''one of the most powerful architectural statements in New York.'' It appears the church has never been cleaned, and its patina is the architectural equivalent of the rich golden burnish of a Victorian cabinet of oak or maple.

By the 1920's, African Americans were moving into Harlem, and in 1922 the church established the St. Luke's Episcopal Mission for Negroes in an old row house at 28 Edgecombe Avenue, near 136th Street, creating a chapel seating 300. Michael Adams, an architectural historian who specializes in Harlem buildings, said that the mission was probably an effort to keep African-Americans segregated from the regular parish.
           

Austin Organ, Op. 284 (ca.1910-15) at St. Luke Episcopal Church - Harlem, New York City (photo: Austin Organs brochure, courtesy Jonathan Bowen)
  Photo from Austin Organ Company brochure
Austin Organ Company
Hartford, Conn. – Opus 284 (1912)
Electro-pneumatic action
4 manuals, 49 stops, 38 ranks


The organ in St. Luke's Church was built in 1912 by the Austin Organ Company of Hartford. Austin installed the organ in chambers on both sides of the chancel. At some point, the Solo-Echo division, originally enclosed and located in the chancel, was reinstalled without enclosure on the rear wall of the church.
               
Austin Organ, Op. 284 (1912) at St. Luke Episcopal Church - Harlem, New York City (photo: David Schmauch)   Austin Organ, Op. 284 (1912) at St. Luke Episcopal Church - Harlem, New York City (photo: David Schmauch)   Austin Organ, Op. 284 (1912) at St. Luke Episcopal Church - Harlem, New York City (photo: Harlem One Stop)
               
Great Organ (Manual II) – 61 notes, partially enclosed with Choir
16
  Major Diapason
61
8
  Claribel Flute *
61
8
  Principal Diapason
61
4
  Harmonic Flute *
61
8
  Small Diapason
61
4
  Octave
61
8
  Violoncello *
61
8
  Trumpet *
61
8
  Gross Flute
61
   
* enclosed in Choir box
               
Swell Organ (Manual III) – 61 notes, enclosed
16
  Bourdon
73
4
  Flauto Traverso
73
8
  Diapason Phonon
73
2
  Flageolet
61
8
  Rohr Floete
73
16
  Contra Fagotto
73
8
  Viole d'Orchestre
73
8
  Cornopean
73
8
  Viole Celeste
73
8
  Oboe
73
8
  Echo Salicional
73
8
  Vox Humana
61
8
  Quintadena
73
    Tremulant  
               
Choir Organ (Manual I) – 61 notes, enclosed
16
  Contra Viole
73
8
  Concert Flute
73
8
  Geigen Principal
73
4
  Flute d'Amour
73
8
  Dulciana
73
8
  Clarinet
73
8
  Vox Angelica
73
    Tremulant  
               
Solo and Echo Organs (Manual IV) – 61 notes, enclosed
8
  Flauto Major
73
8
  Flauto Dolce
73
8
  Gross Gamba
73
8
  Unda Maris [TC]
61
16
  Tuba Profunda [ext.]
12
4
  Fern Flute
73
8
  Harmonic Tuba
61
   
Tremulant
 
4
  Harmonic Clarine [ext.]
12
   
Chimes
20 bronze tubes
               
Pedal Organ – 32 notes ("Augmented")
32
  Magnaton [ext.]
12
8
  Gross Flute
GT
16
  Open Diapason
32
8
  Flauto Dolce
SW
16
  Violone
32
16
  Contra Fagotto
SW
16
  Bourdon
32
16
  Tuba Profunda
SO
16
  Lieblich Gedackt
SW
8
  Harmonic Tuba
SO
16
  Contra Viole
CH
     
         
Organ in church on Hudston Street:

L. C. Harrison
New York City. (1886)
Mechanical action


In 1886, L.C. Harrison, who had acquired the Henry Erben firm in New York City, built a new organ for St. Luke's at a cost of $10,000. This organ was moved to the new church building in Harlem. An entry (Oct. 1908) in the Reuben Midmer & Sons Ledger Book shows a charge of $865 – possibly to convert the organ from tracker to pneumatic action.

Specifications for this organ have not yet been located.
           
Organ in church on Hudston Street:

George W. Earle
Riverhead, N.Y. (1871)
Mechanical action
2 manuals


Specifications for this organ have not yet been located.
           
Organ in church on Hudston Street:

Henry Erben
New York City (1830)
Mechanical action
2 manuals, 18 stops



A new organ was built in 1830 by Henry Erben of New York City. This organ had two manuals, 18 stops, and an octave-and-a-half of pedals. In 1859, the organ was revoiced by L. U. Stuart of New York City. Specifications for this organ have not yet been located.
         
Organ in church on Hudston Street:

Thomas Redstone
New York City (1824)
Mechanical action


The first known organ for St. Luke Church was built in 1824 by Thomas Redstone of New York City, at a cost of $235. Specifications for this organ have not yet been located.
           
Sources:
     Bowen, Jonathan. Stoplist of Austin Organ, Op. 284 (1912).
     Gray, Christopher. "Streetscapes/141st Street and Convent Avenue; 1892 Church for a Congregation That Moved Uptown," The New York Times (Oct. 20, 2002).
     Ochse, Orpha. "A Glimpse of the 1860s," The American Organist (Nov. 1969).
     Reuben Midmer & Sons Ledger Book (Oct. 1908). Entry showing $850 charge. Courtesy Larry Trupiano.
     St. Luke in-the-Fields Church web site: http://www.stlukeinthefields.org/
     Tuttle, Mrs. H. Croswell. "History of Saint Luke's Church in the City of New York 1820-1920." New York: Apeal Printing Company, 1926.

Illustrations:
     Austin Organ Company brochure showing Austin Organ, Op. 284 (1912). Courtesy Jonathan Bowen.
     Harlem One Stop website www.harlemonestop.com. Interior with Echo pipes of Austin Organ, Op. 284 (1912).
     St. Luke in-the-Fields Church web site. Original building on Hudson Street.
     Schmauch, David. Console and case of Austin Organ, Op. 284 (1912).