Emanuel Church celebrates 135th Anniversary
by Ed Wendell
May 02, 2012 | 1615 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Emanuel Church of Christ sits at 91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard, giving it the unique distinction of being either the first or last thing people see when entering or leaving Woodhaven.

It has been that way for many decades and this past Sunday, the congregation along with their family and friends gathered for a celebration at Kennedy's Restaurant, on the beach at Breezy Point, honoring Emanuel's 135th Anniversary.

Emanuel's roots go back a little further than 135 years, and began in various locations in Manhattan in a few churches supported by German immigrants and a few famous German notables such as Jacob Astor and General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, who was George Washington's Chief of Staff in the final years of the Revolutionary War.

It was in 1877 that a new mission was begun, one that would try to reach the population that was rapidly expanding east from Manhattan into Brooklyn and Queens.

On May 6, 1877 in a storefront on Delmonico Place in Brooklyn the congregation officially met for the first time and began plans to either build or buy a church to call their own. Within a year, they had acquired an abandoned church on Graham Street in Brooklyn, and with over a dozen members of the congregation they soon opened up a school for German students.

Over the next quarter century, the church went through many ups and downs, nearly closing twice. But with a rapidly increasing population the church saw its prospects improve and by their 25th Anniversary they had over 500 members of the congregation and over 400 students in both of their schools, one German and one English.

During World War I, the congregation found itself in the midst of conflict due to its German heritage and many of the congregation's elders began leaving Brooklyn for the wide open spaces of Queens and Long Island.

Around the same time, a separate mission had begun in a storefront on Jamaica Avenue and 107th Street in Richmond Hill before purchasing a plot at 89th Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard.

The cost of building a permanent church was prohibitive (in fact they used a "portable" church for a while), but then it was decided that the church in Brooklyn and the mission in Woodhaven would merge and plans for a new church building were drafted.

The 89th Avenue church cost over a hundred thousand dollars to build and it left the congregation deeply in debt. Then one of the parishioners, a man named Frederick Wallmann, passed away and left the church $43,000, which pretty much absolved them of their debt.

Time and again, Emanuel has faced adversity and stared hopelessness in the face, only to recover and regain strength.

The new church building was opened in 1924 but it lasted a little over a decade. A year after its 60th Anniversary, in 1938, the City of New York took over the property and tore down the church as part of the project to widen Woodhaven Boulevard.

The congregation received $136,000 from the city, bought a nearby plot of land on 91st Avenue, and built the beautiful church that has sat welcoming travelers to Woodhaven for over 70 years.

For all of those years, Emanuel has been the constant home for the exact same Boy Scout Troop, a remarkably long association. They have also opened their doors to many various groups and organizations over the years, including the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society which has been meeting at Emanuel for over two decades. They have been, and continue to be, good friends to this community.

One can imagine that those who were in that storefront on Delmonico Place in Brooklyn on May 6, 1877 had no idea how their plans would pan out.

Exactly 135 years later, on Sunday, May 6th, 2012 Emanuel Church of Christ will hold a special Anniversary Mass that is open to the public. It's a wonderful opportunity to witness a part of Woodhaven's history being honored and remembered.

Attendees are encouraged to wear something red as that is the liturgical color for an anniversary of a church. The Mass begins at 10:45 a.m., and there will be a reception with refreshments afterwards.

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