The History of Grace Church
"The services of the Protestant Episcopal church were first held in Whitestone, regularly, about 1840, in a building erected by Samuel Leggett and others, members of the Society of Friends. All religious denominations were allowed’ the use of this building, and, accordingly, soon after its erection several members of the Protestant Episcopal church and others residing in the place who preferred the services of that church requested the rectors of the neighboring parishes to hold services in the new building as often as practicable. Among the clergymen who united in maintaining the services of the Episcopal church for several years succeeding the above date were the rectors of St. George’s church, Flushing, Rev. Henry M. Beard, D.D., of Zion church, Little Neck, the late Rev. W.A. Muhlenberg, D.D., at that time president of St. Paul’s College, at College Point, and other clergymen who were professors in the institution, among whom we may mention Rev. Mr. Van Bokelyn, and Rt. Rev. J.B. Kerfoot, D.D., late bishop of the diocese of Pittsburgh. Several students of St. Paul’s College, who were preparing for the university, also rendered very efficient service at this place as lay readers and teachers in the Sunday-school.
In 1855 the same building in which services had been previously held was rented of the executors of Mr. Leggett, and, Whitestone became a regularly organized mission of St. George’s Church, Flushing. Services were now regularly held by Rev. William Short, assistant minister of St. George’s Church, with the understanding that his field of labor should be especially within the limits of the village of Whitestone. The building in which the congregation worshiped was occupied for a period of nearly six years.
The connection with the parish of St. George’s, Flushing, was dissolved September 6th 1858, when the parish of Grace Church, Whitestone, was duly organized and the following officers elected: Abraham B. Sands and John D. Locke, wardens; Abraham Bininger, A.H. Kissam, Henry Lowerree, Henry Smith, Peter F. Westervelt, Griffith Rowe, Charles H. Miller and John Barrow, vestrymen.
At a meeting of the vestry, held September 12th the same year, the Rev. William Shortt, the minister in charge, was chosen rector. Owing to an increased prosperity of the parish a very eligible site was purchased, and the corner stone of a new church edifice was laid with the usual ceremonies May 1st 1858. The new church, handsomely and tastefully built of brick, and estimated to have cost about $6,000, was completed and opened for service November 8th 1860.
Rev. William Shortt continued his ministrations in the parish until May 31st 1865, when failing health compelled him to resign. In June following a call was extended to Rev. B.H. Abbott, of’ Carbondale, Pa., who accepted and soon entered upon the rectorship of the parish.
The same year two additional lots adjoining the church property were purchased and a Sunday - school building was erected. Rev. Mr. Abbott continued his services as rector until April 3d 1877. In the following December Rev. Joseph H. Young was called to the parish, and at once entered upon the duties of the rectorship. He resigned April 28th 1879.
In July of the same year a call was extended to the Rev. William F. Dickinson, M.D., rector’s assistant to the Rev. J.R. Davenport, D.D., New York city, who entered upon his duties August 1st 1879 and is the present incumbent."
An "Episcopal Society" was formed on Long Island under sanction of the "Society for Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts." Whitestone was included in its area of influence as part of the town of Flushing. A Charter of Incorporation created the Parish of St. George's in Flushing. Residents of Whitestone (only a few people here then) attended St. George's. Whitestone's most illustrious resident, Francis Lewis, was a vestryman at St. George's for several years prior to the outbreak of the Revolution.
Mr. Samuel Leggett, a resident of Whitestone and a member of the "Society of Friends," erected a "Whitestone Chapel" which was free for the use of all denominations. Ministers frequently officiated there to Whitestone inhabitants.
The population had increased over the years in Whitestone, especially since it had attracted a number of summer residents whose estates dotted the shorefront.
St. George's Church rented the Leggett "Chapel" and sent an Assistant Minister, Mr. William Shortt, to preside there.
Extensive repairs were made on the Chapel, which was then known as the "Chapel of St. George's, State of New York."
In September 1858, the Parish of Grace Church, Whitestone, was incorporated. Wardens and Vestrymen were chosen, and the Rev. William Shortt was elected Rector of the new parish.
Grace Church became a separate congregation in 1858. Up to then it was, I believe, a mission of St. George's in Flushing. Their church building, at the time, was the Union Church opposite today's St. Luke's Catholic Church. That building was constructed by a local Quaker philanthropist name Samuel Leggett, and made available to any religious group needing a building on Sunday. The Episcopal church decided they wanted to have their own building and two lots were donated to the church.
Plans were made for a new church edifice and the cornerstone was laid in May of 1859.
Mr. S.D. Williams donated land, money raised, architects engaged, and the work began.
The cornerstone was laid in May 1860, and the building completed in the autumn of that year. In November, the first service in the new building was held, and the dedication of the edifice took place.
According to deed records, John Locke and David Williams each gave a parcel of land to the Rectors of Grace Church in 1861, the year follow the building of the church. There are no earlier records. It is possible that there was some delay in entering the deeds. Both gentlemen owned a great deal of land in Whitestone and I know Locke was a member of your congregation and was the owner of the nearby factory. He was also regarded as a local philanthropist. If they did give the land for the church they could have purchased the land from someone else for the purpose of making a donation.
A parish house was built as a "home" for the Sunday School and a place for the increasing parish activities.
The church building (now seven years old) and the new parish house were consecrated by Bishop Potter. At this time, and for many years after, the rectory was a rented house in the village, various addresses.
A Sanctuary was added to the church building, along with a choir room and a sacristy, and consecrated by the Bishop.
Grace Church acquired its own rectory.
Mr. Charles Sneff gave the property immediately east of the church, together with the building on it (that of the "Social League") to Grace Church for a rectory. It was renovated extensively to be made suitable as a residence for the minister.
The interior of the Church was completely renovated. A new floor was laid in the parish house, and a kitchen added.
The cornerstone was laid for a new parish house, to be built on the site of the original one of 1866, which was still in use but had become inadequate for the growing parish.
New Parish House was completed, as was the Cloister, which was added at this time to provide needed facilities.
New wiring and lighting fixtures were installed in the church.
A flagpole was given to Grace Church by the Whitestone Shopping Center for the lawn of Grace Church, and the Church School placed a bronze plaque on it to honor Francis Lewis.
It was dedicated June 26, 1955. Our church stands on a part of his farm.
Grace Church embarked on a 4-point building program to increase the facilities of the church. Planning and construction were begun for:
A new brick rectory to replace the old rectory, which was in a deteriorated condition and in need of expensive repairs.
Addition of a roomy vestibule at the front of the Church.
Enlargement of the Cloister to accommodate the Rector's Office, a new Sacristy, additional service rooms for the Church School, and a club meeting room for church organizations.
Purchase and remodeling of the small house and grounds adjoining church property to the East, for use of the Sexton
On December 1, 1957, Bishop Sherman dedicated the new vestibule, the additions to the Cloister and Parish Hall, the Sacristy, the new Rectory, and the Sexton's house.
Renovation of the church interior was begun. New flooring was needed in the church building and was installed, new pews replaced the old ones, the rood screen and many other memorials and fixtures were eliminated or moved to other locations in the church, in order to achieve a more spacious "open" effect in the interior.
Renovation and modernization of the kitchen in the Parish House was carried out.
Two flagpoles were blessed and dedicated on June 6, 1976 by the congregation of Grace Church and various community organizations, as a part of the bi‑centennial celebration. One flagpole had been given by a descendent of Francis Lewis, Miss Helen A. Lewis, and was dedicated to his memory and that of his wife, a martyr to the American cause.
Captain James McCollam and his family gave the other pole, dedicated to "Those Who Have Given Their Lives In the Cause of Freedom."
A parish pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Rome and Greece was planned and executed.
There was a fire in the sexton's house and following the renovation of the house,
it was decided that the house would become a rental property. It has continued as such to the present day.
Steps were added on either side of the chancel to improve access to and from the altar rail.
High intensity lighting was installed in the Upper Parish Hall which helped facilitate the licensing of the church Playschool by the Department of Health.
This Playschool has continued to function to the present day.
The Mary Chapel was built and consecrated. During this same year, the Lower Parish Hall was paneled and painted.
The entire church building complex was completely reroofed.
The church parking lot was paved.
Major repairs were made to the church bell tower.
The money for this project came in the form of a memorial fund donation made by the George Schmidt, Sr. Family.
During the summer of this year, the Vestry undertook an improvement project called "Project 2000." This project involved the installation of new windows in the classroom wing of the church complex, as well as in the Sacristy and the church office. As part of this same project, all the same areas were carpeted and painted.
Church building received the Queens Historical Society's Historical & Architectural Merit Award.
Dedication of the Good Shepherd stained glass door in Our Lady of Grace Chapel. Given in memory of John Ronald Jeffrey by the Jeffrey Family and friends.
Church’s main boiler replaced.
Celebrated 150th Anniversary with celebration held at Verdi's and Journal created.
Dedication of the handicap ramp and sidewalk at the entrance of the church. Given in memory of Eleanor Mary Jeffrey by the Jeffrey Family and friends.
Windows replaced throughout church building. Change over to more eco-friendly lighting.
Church and rector's office gets a much needed fresh coat of paint. Trimmed trees.
Replacement of Narthex ADA door, doors to front of gym and back parking lot door.
The Underpinning was excavated below alter and cemented to stop sinking of building due to water seepage, foundation at back of church was repaired.
Repaired the stairwell which has also eliminated flooding into the LPH.
Roof on Rectory replaced.
Modernization of Rectory for potential priest.
· Replace roof, gut/remodel 3 bathrooms and kitchen.
· Refinish 2nd floor.
· Replace boiler from 1956 with modern, more efficient boiler and hot water heater.
· Upgrade electrical.
Refinish roof over offices/Barbara Dare room.
Bell tower removed