St. John's Episcopal Church
PRESERVATION CAMPAIGN FOR HISTORIC CHURCH TAKES NEW TURN
JC Landmarks Calls On Public to Get Involved in Fight To Preserve Neglected Historic Church
The time has come to rally and save St. John's Episcopal Church, one of Hudson County's great architectural monuments.
The property owners of the abandoned 19th-century edifice - the Episcopal Diocese of Newark - and the Jersey City Municipal Council, which holds the site's final fate, have had since last October's public meeting to finalize their structural reports.
The Council postponed its landmark designation vote at that time to permit additional studies - and more than enough time, we feel, has been allotted.
We, JC Landmarks, and the Jersey City public, are ready for landmark designation consideration - the building and the Bergen Hill neighborhood deserve it.
JCLC is asking our supporters to take one minute to complete and submit a CitizenSpeak preservation campaign postcard (see link below) addressed to the Jersey City Municipal Council.
The postcard, to be sent to all Council members electronically, is asking for the immediate landmark designation of St. John's. The church, although neglected and vandalized, is not beyond restoration and reuse.
Your CitizenSpeak postcard is already composed - all you need do is fill out the few required fields and then hit submit. However, if you'd like to add your own wording, a text box is provided.
If you would like to fill out or distribute actual SAVE ST. JOHN'S! postcards (pictured above) we can arrange to provide copies; contact Norrice Raymaker at email@example.com.
PLEASE NOTE: Your CitizenSpeak submissions have been coming in - and we thank you for taking the time to do so! Please encourage others to visit JC Landmarks to do the same - this pivotal 1871 English Gothic sentinel in the historic Bergen Hill neighborhood needs them!
10/2/2008 UPDATE: Our battle to save the seminal St. John's Episcopal Church in the Bergen Hill district of Jersey City takes center stage next week, Tuesday, October 7, 2008, at the next City Council meeting at Middle School # 4, starting at 6:00 p.m.
The City Council will be presented with the opportunity to designate St. John's - one of Hudson County's most architecturally pivotal Victorian Gothic edifices - an official Jersey City landmark. This much-needed status will offer considerable protections and allow the building to remain standing while we work hard to encourage the Episcopal Diocese of Newark to preserve this Church through adaptive reuse rather than demolish it as they currently plan.
We would all be extremely appreciative if you - our dedicated preservation support base - could find the time to attend the public meeting and join our campaign groups in the audience.
If you cannot make the meeting, we ask that you send an email or call the City Council directly. (See contact information below.) Every voice counts and will, we are certain, make a lasting impression on the Council.
Thank you again - and we hope to meet up with you next Tuesday!
JERSEY CITY MUNICIPAL COUNCIL MEETING
Tuesday, October 7, 2008, starting at 6:00 p.m.
Middle School # 4 (Frank R. Conwell), 107 Bright Street, Downtown Jersey City (enter at the intersection of Bright and Varick).
CONTACT CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS:
We ask that you send a message of support (via phone or email or fax, if preferred) to the City Council. A comprehensive contact list can be found at the link below.
If you would like to reach out only to Council President Mariano Vega and Ward F Councilwoman Viola Richardson (St. John's stands in her district), we are providing their contact info here:
HONORABLE MARIANO VEGA, COUNCIL PRESIDENT - Phone: (201) 547-5268; Fax: (201) 547-4678; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Hilario Nuñez, Council Aide: Phone (201) 547-5458
HONORABLE VIOLA RICHARDSON, WARD F COUNCILWOMAN - Phone: (201) 547-5338; Fax: (201) 547- 4678; Email: RichardsonV@jcnj.org ; Lorenzo Richardson, Council Aide: Phone (201) 547-5361City Council contact page...
12/12/2007 UPDATE: The Conservancy and its allies have achieved another remarkable victory when, last night, the Jersey City Planning Board unanimously recommended that St. John's be placed on the municipal register of historic places! The Conservancy would like to think the many people, both local and from out of town, who came to speak in support of the application. Your support definitely made a difference!
The nomination will now be considered by the City Council. We encourage you to contact your council representatives and the mayor's office and ask them to support the nomination.
12/9/2007 UPDATE: Due to renovations at City Hall The Planning Board will meet in a new location, 30 Montgomery Street, 14th Floor (the same location as the Historic Preservation Commission Meeting.
We are also pleased to report that the St. John's Campaign has received significant media coverage this week. The New Jersey Section of the Sunday New York Times features a cover article on St. John's click here.
In addition, New Jersey Network news featured St. John's on their Friday night news report. To view the report (which is at the 10 minute, 30 second mark of the broadcast), click here.
11/16/2007 UPDATE: The Planning Board Meeting will now be held on December 11, 2007. The Conservancy has learned that the Diocese has requested an adjournment without even giving the Conservancy the courtesy of notifying us of the request. We also have learned that the City, without consulting the Conservancy, has granted the adjournment. We apologize to the many people who have made room on their schedule on the 20th of November, but we had absolutely no say in the decision. This is yet another unfortunate example on both how the Diocese has delayed and manipulated the process, and how City officials have allowed such manipulation.
Click Here to send the Diocese an e-mail demanding that they drop their opposition to the landmark application and to cease delaying the process. You should follow up this e-mail with a phone call to the office of the Rt. Rev. Mark Beckwith at (973) 430-9976.
10/30/2007 UPDATE: On Monday, October 29, 2007, advocates for St. John's obtained a tremendous victory for the church when the Jersey City Historic Preservation Commission unanimously recommended placing St. John's Episcopal Church on the Municipal Register of Historic Places. Despite a well-funded opposition campaign, the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey could not stem the tide of overwhelming public support for preservation of this landmark. The campaign to preserve St. John's will continue on November 20, 2007, when the Jersey City Planning Board will consider the HPC's recommendation and make its own recommendation to City Council. We encourage you to attend the November 20, 2007 planning board meeting to express your support.
Remarkably, after last night's hearing, the Diocese's attorney refused to commit to taking no action to demolish the church while the landmarking process was pending. The Conservancy continues to be greatly concerned that the Diocese is ignoring the overwhelming sentiments in support of preservation and allowing the church to further deteriorate.
|The Interior of St. John's|
Built in 1870, St. John's Episcopal Church is perhaps the City's best example of Gothic Revival Architecture. Designed by John Remsen Overdonk II, the church's design reflects the philosophy of "ecclesiology" that played an important role in mid 19th century church design.
St. John's was originally built as a church for a rural parish in the City of Bergen. As the community developed and grew, the Church became the largest Episcopal Congregation in the State of New Jersey. St. John's became known as the "Millionaire's Church," as it catered to Hudson County's wealthies professionals.
Decades later, as the demographics of the Bergen Hill neighborhood in Jersey City began to change, the church began to minister to a largely minority working class population. During this area, St. John's was known for the political activism of its then pastor Reverand Robert Castle.
Today, St. John's still stands, but precariously. Vacated by the diocese in 1994, it has now been abandoned and left to the elements. Preservation New Jersey recognized the precarious situation of St. John's, naming it to its 10 Most Endangered List in 2004. In 2006, the Episcopal Diocese of Newark allowed a salvage crew to brutally strip the church's interior of its valuable artifiacts and fixtures. To date, the Diocese has failed to take basic precautions against further damage or water infiltration.
|St. John's Rectory.|
The Conservancy has taken an active role in the fight to save St. John's. In the face of continued neglect of the Church, the Conservancy and the Bergen Hill Neighborhood Association submitted a nomination of the Church and adjoining rectory house for Municipal Landmark status. Since the submission of the nomination, the Episcopal Diocese of Newark has expressed some interest in dialogue with the Conservancy. The Conservancy is willing to meet with the Diocese in a good faith effort to find a way to preserve the Church, though it is still prepared to take aggressive action if such efforts fail.