Preservation Issues

Old St. James Parish Hall One Step Closer to City Landmark Status

Update: August 2017

Queens is set to get another landmark this fall. The Conservancy testified at an August 8 Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) hearing on Old Saint James Episcopal Church (Old Saint James Parish Hall). Built in 1735, St. James is New York’s second-oldest extant religious property; the Conservancy has been involved with the building for nearly 20 years.

Representatives of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island voiced their support for the designation as did several Commissioners. The designation is set to include the Church and a five-foot buffer separating it from an adjacent parking lot which is on the same property. The Diocese indicated that it intends to develop the lot, and questions were raised as to whether the buffer would be sufficient protection for the 282-year old building. LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said that the Commission will take that question into consideration and plans to vote on the designation in September.

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June 2017

A 1735 former Anglican church in Elmhurst that the Conservancy helped restore was calendared by the Landmarks Preservation Commission this past Tuesday—the first step towards making one of the City’s oldest buildings an official landmark. Old St. James Parish Hall, a single story wood frame building, was built as an Anglican parish church. Members included Reverend Dr. Benjamin Moore, the first president of Columbia University and the Reverend Dr. Samuel Seabury, Jr., the first American bishop.

The congregation outgrew the church and moved into a larger building in 1848. Old St. James became a Sunday school and, later, a community center. The Conservancy restored the building in 2004, bringing it back to its 1880 appearance, a Carpenter Gothic style. The Landmarks Commission initially turned down a request from State Senator Tony Avella to calendar the building, questioning how much authentic material remained. We asked the Commission to reconsider, submitting additional details of how the original fabric was maintained and restored. We are delighted that this venerable building is on track to get the recognition and protection it deserves.

Our involvement began in 1998 when parishioners approached us for help in stopping a sale to a builder who would have razed it for new development. A $5,000 Sacred Sites grant paid for a conditions survey, which led the church to begin a capital campaign for its restoration.

The work included installing a new cedar shingle roof and restoring cedar siding, as well as both wood and stained glass windows. The $430,000 funding came from a $160,000 Conservancy loan; a $35,000 grant from The New York Community Trust; a $182,859 grant from the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and $52,141 from St. James Episcopal Church.