29th Street in the Dutch Kills section, nearby Queens Plaza, used to be known as Academy Street “back in the day.” In this case, that day was way before the consolidation of the City of Greater New York in 1898. The “day” was just a few years after the village of Dutch Kills had broken away from the municipality of Newtown, joining with several other East River communities to form Long Island City in 1870.
The little church you’ll not notice – if you were to blink – at 40-11 29th Street – dates back to 1875.
Built as the First Reformed Church of Long Island City, it opened on the 12th of April, and its first pastor was named William Perry. Funds and property for the building came largely from the Payntar family (of ancient lineage), and a fellow named John Van Neste. There’s a reason that the place is called “Dutch Kills.”
More after the jump…
The ancient part of the structure is actually behind this brick addition, which was added in 1921. Unfortunately, this addition damns the building, as far as landmarks laws go. The 1875 church is a wood frame building set back from the street a bit, which sits on a visible masonry foundation. The congregation which built the church, like most of the early residents of Dutch Kills, were originally associated with the Reformed Church of Newtown. They wanted someplace closer to home for Sundays, and got busy. By the 1880’s the church had a little over 100 members, and there was a Sunday School.
Currently, it hosts a congregation of the Korean Philippo Presbyterian Church.
There’s a “for sale” sign on the building, with a Keller Williams logo on it adjuring interested parties to contact an agent named Erica Chong. Out of curiosity, I contacted her, and she was generous enough to fill me in on a couple of the particulars. It seems that the structures last changed hands in 1995, for $4,000,000, and that it is currently being offered as a development site which includes additional properties on adjoining lots. She is considering several offers on the property.
Speculation amongst area wags and historical enthusiasts offers that the wooden sections of the structure might be the oldest church building, still standing in its original position, left in this rapidly changing neighborhood. It will be missed.
Special attention is paid in the shot above to the stone tablet inset above the entryway, with its classic 1920’s “age of art deco” typography and styling.
Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman lives in Astoria and blogs at Newtown Pentacle.