Brighton Heights Reformed Church - Staten Island, NY (photo: Jim Henderson)
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Brighton Heights Reformed Church

320 St. Mark's Place at Fort Place
Staten Island, N.Y. 10301


Organ Specifications:
320 St. Mark's Place at Fort Place (since 1864)
Present building (since 1999)
• II/ Allen Organ Company electronic (1999)
First building (1864-burned 1996)
III/21 Skinner Organ Company, Op. 643 (1927)
• II/23 Giles Beach (1864)
Victory Boulevard (1820-1864)
• unknown (1836)



The congregation known today as the Brighton Heights Reformed Church can trace its roots to 1817, when a series of weekly religious revival services were held in a large hall at the Fever Hospital in Quarantine, a walled-in thirty-acre plot on which immigrants debarked for physical examinations. Many of the immigrants were afflicted with what was called "ship's fever," a condition brought on after a long journey in which they were often crammed into unventilated and unsanitary holds without fresh food or water for periods of up to eight weeks. Vice President Daniel D. Tompkins (under President James Monroe), who had moved to Staten Island in 1812 when he was Governor of New York State, became deeply concerned about the conditions and secured permission from the U. S. Health Service to conduct religious services in a large hall of the hospital. Mr. Tompkins's home was built on what is now the corner of Fort Place and Sherman Avenue, and Quarantine, a stark and barren area against the otherwise green landscape, stood between his home and his view of the bay. Vice President Tompkins, who was an active member of the Reformed Dutch Church on Staten Island, persuaded his pastor, the Rev. Peter I. Van Pelt, to conduct the services.

At that time, there were two Reformed churches: the mother church at Port Richmond (known as the North Church) and the church at Richmond (known as the South Church). Dr. Van Pelt's efforts were well attended, and Mr. Tompkins and his family were often among the audience. However, this arrangement soon proved inadequate and Dr. Van Pelt soon felt that another church should be built.

Dutch Reformed Church (1820-1864) - Tompkinsville, Staten Island (Morris's History of Staten Island)  
Original Tompkinsville Church (c.1900)  
In May 1818, Vice President Tompkins donated five hundred dollars and a parcel of his Castleton farmland toward the construction of the new East Church. The triangular-shaped plot, located at what is now the area between Bay Street and VanDuzer Street fronting on Victory Boulevard, later became known as Tompkinsville upon the death of the statesman in 1825. Additional financial assistance was given by the U. S. Public Health Service, the Collegiate Church of New York City and others. The cornerstone for the new church was laid on October 18, 1818, and the building was dedicated two years later on Sunday, October 23, 1820. Dr. Van Pelt supplied the pulpit until the East Church was separated from the Port Richmond congregation and incorporated with the name, "Minister, Elders and Deacons of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church in Tompkinsville" on December 10, 1823. At the same time, the church established a school that was the beginning of the Tompkinsville school system.

Over the next decade, the Tompkinsville Church increased in financial strength, and on January 5, 1836, assets exceeded liabilities for the first time. During February and March of that year, the interior of the church was altered and an organ was purchased.

Brighton Heights Reformed Church (1864-1996) - Tompkinsville, Staten Island, NY (photo: Roland Ratmeyer)  
Brighton Heights Church (1864-1996)  
With the onset of the Civil War, the neighborhood around the Tompkinsville Church was becoming objectionable, and property for a new church was acquired in Brighton Heights, a short distance north of the old church. Architect John Correja of New York City was commissioned to design a stone structure, but when the cost of building the Gothic Revival design proved high, Correja eventually adapted his plans to allow for the construction of a less expensive wooden building in the same style. On October 27, 1863, the cornerstone was laid, and the completed structure was dedicated on November 3, 1864.

  Brighton Heights Reformed Church (1864-1996) - Tompkinsville, Staten Island, NY (photo: Roland Ratmeyer)
   
  1864 bell cast by Meneely Bell Co. of Troy, N.Y. for the Reformed Dutch Church of Tompkinsville, Staten Island (photo: Roland Ratmeyer)
  1864 Meneely bell
With its prominent spire, the white clapboard church was highly visible along the northeast shore of Staten Island. In the tower was a noble bell cast in 1864 by the Meneely Bell Company of Troy, N.Y. The church interior featured vaulted ceilings over the nave and two side aisles, stained glass windows, a wide pulpit in the chancel and an organ loft in the rear gallery.

In 1867, the General Synod of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church in the U.S. voted to change the denomination's name to the Reformed Church in America. The Tompkinsville Church followed suit on March 23, 1870, when its corporate name was officially changed to "The Reformed Church, Brighton Heights, Staten Island."

In 1881, a church hall was erected with funds from the sale of the Tompkinsville property, the site of the earlier church. This addition formed a terminal transept at the rear of the church and conformed with the style and proportion of the original building.

The Brighton Heights Reformed Church was designated by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in October 1967, and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on June 3, 1982. The church suffered a devastating fire on June 28, 1996, when a worker was removing paint with a heat gun. It was hoped that some stained glass and other fixtures could be salvaged, but the building was deemed unsafe and was ordered demolished early the next morning.

The present church was built in 1999. Designed in the Gothic Revival style and constructed of brick, the church features a steeple as tall as the one that burned in 1996.
           
Allen Organ Company
Macungie, Penn.
Electronic tonal production
2 manuals


Specifications for this organ have not yet been received.
           
  Skinner Organ, Op. 643 (1927) in Brighton Heights Reformed Church - Staten Island, NY (photo: Roland Ratmeyer)
   
  Skinner Organ, Op. 643 (1927) in Brighton Heights Reformed Church - Staten Island, NY (photo: Roland Ratmeyer)
Organ in second church building:

Skinner Organ Company
Boston, Mass. – Opus 643 (1927)
Electro-pneumatic action
3 manuals, 25 stops, 21 ranks





In 1927, the Skinner Organ Company of Boston built a new organ for the Brighton Heights Church. Installed in the gallery, the three-manual instrument may have incorporated the case from the earlier 1864 Giles Beach organ.

This organ burned with the church on June 28, 1996.
               
Great Organ (Manual II) – 61 notes
8
  Diapason
61
8
  French Horn [in CH box]
61
8
  Clarabella
61
8
  Tuba [in CH box]
61
4
  Octave
61
   
Cathedral Chimes [in SW]
20 tubes

     

     
Swell Organ (Manual III) – 61 notes, enclosed
16
  Bourdon
73
4
  Flute Triangulaire
73
8
  Diapason
73
8
  Oboe d'Amore
73
8
  Gedeckt
73
8
  Cornopean
73
8
  Salicional
73
8
  Vox Humana
73
8
  Voix Celeste
73
    Tremolo  
8
  Flute Celeste II ranks
134
       
               
Choir Organ (Manual I) – 61 notes, enclosed
8
  Concert Flute
73
    Tremolo  
8
  Dulciana
73
   
Harp
61 bars
4
  Flute
73
    Celesta
8
  Clarinet
73
       
       

     
Pedal Organ – 32 notes
16
  Major Bass [unit]
44
16
  Trombone [ext. SW]
12
16
  Echo Lieblich
SW
8
  Tromba
SW
8
  Octave
    Cathedral Chimes
GT
8
  Still Gedeckt
SW
       
               
Couplers
    Swell to Pedal 8', 4'     Swell to Choir 8'
    Great to Pedal 8'     Swell to Swell 16', 4'
    Choir to Pedal 8'     Great to Great 4'
    Swell to Great 16', 8', 4'     Choir to Choir 16', 4'
    Choir to Great 16', 8', 4'      
           
Combinations (Adjustable at the console and visibly operating the draw stop knobs)
   
Great Organ Pistons No. 1-2-3-4 Man. to Ped. On/Off
Swell Organ Pistons No. 1-2-3-4-5 Man. to Ped. On/Off
Choir Organ Pistons No. 1-2-3-4 Man. to Ped. On/Off
Pedal Organ Pistons No. 1-2-3-4  
  Cancel Piston  
           
Mechanicals
    Swell Expression Pedal   Great to Pedal Reversible
    Choir Expression Pedal   Sforzando Reversible Pedal & Piston
    Crescendo Pedal    
           
Organ in second church building:

Giles Beach
Gloversville, N.Y. (1864)
Mechanical action
2 manuals, 23 stops


Specifications of this organ have not yet been located.
           
Organ in first church building:

Unknown Builder
(1836)
Mechanical action


Church records show that an organ was purchased in 1836. Specifications of this organ have not yet been located.
           
Sources:
     Aeolian-Skinner Archives web site: http://aeolian-skinner.110mb.com/
     "Brighton Heights Reformed Church," New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (Oct. 12, 1967, No. 2, LP-0329).
     Clute, J. J. Annals of Staten Island, From its Discovery to the Present Time. New York: Press of Chas. Vogt, 1877.
     Engels, Mary. "Burned Church Vows to Rebuild," The New York Daily News, August 22, 1996.
     Forgotten New York website: http://www.forgotten-ny.com
     Kinzey, Allen, and Sand Lawn. E.M. Skinner/Aeolian-Skinner Opus List (New Revised Edition). Richmond: The Organ Historical Society, 1997.
     Morris, Ira K. Morris's Memorial History of Staten Island, New York, Vol II. West New Brighton, Staten Island: pub. by the author, 1900.
     Nelson, George. Organs in the United States and Canada Database. Seattle, Wash.
     Reformed Church in America web site: http://www.rca.org
     Trupiano, Larry. Factory Shop Notes of Skinner Organ, Op. 643 (1927).
     Vosburgh, Royden Woodward (trans. and ed.). "Records of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church in Tompkinsville, Staten Island, Richmond County, N.Y. In the former town of Castleton and now the Reformed Church, Brighton Heights, in the Borough of Richmond, City of New York." August 1922.

Illustrations:
     Forgotten New York web site. Exterior of present building.
     Morris, Ira K. Morris's Memorial History of Staten Island, New York, Vol II. Exterior of Dutch Reformed Church, Tompkinsville.
     Ratmeyer, Roland. Exterior and interior of 1864 church (c.1986); Meneely bell (1864); Skinner Organ, Op. 643 (1927).