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Church of the Atonement Ledger

Mar 14, 2009 3:47 PM | 0 comments

A recent arrival on our shelves is the Ledger of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Atonement at 239 17th Street near Fifth Avenue. This once pretty and active church is now almost a ruin.  The ledger documents meetings of the vestry from 1887 to 1907, twenty years of growth and optimism in the life of the congregation. During this period, a new building was erected, an organ by Reuben Midmer was installed, and the arrival of the elevated railroad on Fifth Avenue caused the church to sue for annoyance and depreciation of property. They won a settlement of $5000 from the Union Railroad.

A sadder, and more lurid event occurred in 1894, when the Sexton, an insane Englishman by the name of Holt, murdered his wife by shooting her three times and cutting her throat with a razor.  The Brooklyn Daily Eagle could do little better than blame the victims in its coverage, while the church ledger, in its first meeting after the event, notes with restraint the following:

"Moved and seconded that the vestry ratify the action of the junior warden in removing T. G. Holt from the sextonship on Aug 13th 1884."

I do not know if the Pentecostal Church that took over the building is still functioning. The structure on the right is now an empty lot; the top of the church tower is gone, making nonsense of the truncated structure below it.  If things keep heading in this direction, it will probably not be long before the old Church of the Atonement finds itself in a collision with a wrecker's ball.