A 282-year-old church in Elmhurst is officially a city landmark after the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) unanimously voted to give it that designation today.
Old St. James Episcopal Church, located at 86-02 Broadway, was built in 1735 by the Church of England for the Anglican community. It was built in what was then called Newtown Village, which was established by the English in 1652 and was one of the first five towns established in Queens.
“The Commission is proud to designate this historic church, significant for its association with the early colonial settlement of Queens and with the beginnings of the Protestant Episcopal Church in New York,” said LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan. “As the second-oldest church building in the city, pre-dating St. Paul’s Chapel in Manhattan, it is a site well-deserving of the protection landmark status provides.”
The structure includes 18th- and 19th-century design features and materials and is an “architecturally significant example of the colonial meetinghouse,” according to the LPC. It also includes 19th-century Gothic Revival and Stick style details.
British soldiers used the church during the Revolutionary War but ultimately spared the building. The church’s parish became one of the earliest members of the Episcopal Diocese of New York.
The structure went through several renovations throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The first iteration was a rectangular building with shingles, round-arch windows and a tower facing the graveyard, which is now a parking lot.
In 1848, the congregation built a larger church one block away and the original building became a parish hall and chapel. The building’s style was updated in 1883 with Gothic Revival and Stick Style decorative details and the parish constructed a small rear addition where the original tower was previously located.
In the 20th century, the hall became a community meeting place. The building was mostly restored to its 1883 appearance in 2004 with the help of a $150,000 grant from the Landmarks Conservancy’s Sacred Sites program.
The restoration cost $430,000 in total and the improvements included a new roof, the restoration of the cedar siding, wood windows and reconstructing the decorative bracketing along the exterior.
“I have been a proud supporter of efforts to designate the Old St. James Episcopal Church as a New York City Individual Landmark and I’m thrilled that the Landmarks Preservation Commission has voted to do so,” said U.S. Congresswoman Grace Meng, who wrote a letter to the LPC to advocate for landmark status. “Although this historic church is already on the National Register of Historic Places, the designation as an individual New York City Landmark will allow for further preservation of this structure, and greater awareness of the early history of our great city. It will also ensure that future generations are able to share in the story and history of this wonderful facility.”