The Church That Almost Wasn't - Part III (conclusion)

By the time Rev. Baggett left the church in 1928, the group was stable and poised for growth. There are no records of how many people were attending until around 1943. From 1928 until 1943 there was a succession of five pastors, including Rev. George Hall, a single pastor out of Nyack who met and married one of the congregants while he pastored here.

Shortly before the Jamestown Gospel Tabernacle turned 25, their seventh pastor arrived, Rev. Charles E. Turner. He demonstrated a remarkable ability to clearly envision what the church needed to do to move into the future. His vision laid the groundwork the church was able to build upon for decades to come. Just six months after his arrival, Rev. Turner voiced the church’s intent in a Post Journal article. “The present quarters of the Jamestown Gospel Tabernacle are fast growing too small. It is the desire of the congregation to celebrate their 25th anniversary by liquidating their mortgage on the property and finding a new home.”

The year was now 1943 and the country was emerging from the Great Depression and was in the midst of World War II. In addition, the congregation gave heavily to missions. Despite these obstacles, they also gave towards the building project and in 1945 they purchased the present property for $1,750.00. The following year, in a brilliant and daring move, the 304-306 East Second Street property was sold in order to obtain money to build the new church. Meanwhile, the congregation moved across Second Street to meet in the Red Cross Building at 311 East Second St. (pictured at left).

Rev. Turner left in June of 1947, while they were still meeting in the Red Cross building. Rev. Dwight Steiner arrived two months later to carry on the work. Early on Sunday mornings, Rev. Steiner and his two sons would go over to clean up the cigarette butts and other trash that littered the floor from the previous evening’s activities that took place in the auditorium the church rented.

At the annual meeting in the fall of 1947 the church voted to begin building the following year on their new property. Rev. Steiner petitioned the zoning board to allow them to build the church 30 feet back from the sidewalk rather than the standard 40 feet, to give an additional 10 feet of space in the building. He was met with strong opposition from residents and clergy who lived near the West Third St. location. The board denied the variance due to their objections.

Undaunted by several neighbors who clearly did not want a church there at all, the work was begun in 1948 and was ready for dedication by February of 1949. Over 400 attended the actual dedication ceremony. The congregation moved in, even before the basement rooms could be finished off. Classes met with just studs in place of walls for a little while.

Emily Newell and her family, Dick Franzen, Evelyn Russell, Jeane Sherman and others were part of that original congregation that made the move. Emily often said that those who had not been a part of the Second Street church could not realize what a great step of faith it was to leave the security of a building in hand for the hope of one yet to be built. But leave it they did under Rev. Turner’s initial guidance and then under Rev. Steiner’s steady hand which brought the work to completion. The church owes a great deal to the resolve of these two men.

This concludes the history of the church’s “store front” years. Watch the church website for “Beyond the Storefront Years” coming soon.