A church with a rich past
On Sept. 23, 1865, a meeting was held to incorporate the parish and a building committee was appointed. The property at the corner of South and Second Streets was purchased and construction began. The “carpenter gothic” church, designed by Mr. Jardine of New York, was built by Henry McElroy for about $9,000 including the cost of the land.
The first Rector of the Episcopal community in Warwick was The Rev. Frederick Van Horne , whose congregation worshiped in their homes. The Rev. William Carter, followed by The Rev. George Zabriskie Gray rented the Methodist church on Church St. on Sunday afternoons. The Rev. Nicholas Ludlum was rector in 1864 when the first incorporation as Christ Church was accomplished and he urged the Vestry to reincorporate in 1866 when they stopped renting space in the Methodist church and bought their own property on South Street.
The cornerstone was laid on July 17, 1866, and the building was completed in December. The first services were held on the fourth Sunday in Advent, Dec. 23, 1866. On a very warm July 3, 1867, the building was consecrated by the Rt. Rev. Horatio Potter, Bishop of the Diocese of New York. The church maintained a strong role in the community throughout the 19th century.
In 1870 the Ladies Guild purchased an organ for the church. It was a Jardine single manual organ, and added much to the worship services, encouraging people to sing. This organ was in the gallery until 1889, when it was moved to the front of the church. A replacement, second hand organ was acquired from The Church Of The Holy Comforter in New York City. It was refurbished and dedicated to Grace Hyanrd, Who played the organ here for some 50 years.
In the 1890s, the church built a rectory on an open lot at 5 Second Street. Before that, the dwelling just west of it had served in this capacity.
In 1905, Through the generous donation of some monies by a summer parishioner, Mr. Thomas Fowler the church was remodeled inside and electricity was run . Many generous gifts of furnishings and decorations were given in celebration of the remodeling and in memory of loved ones.
In the 1940s, the Drew House, adjacent to the church, was purchased for use as a parish house. In 1964, this was torn down and the present parish house was erected. On April 5, 1975, this building suffered a disastrous fire. It was rebuilt and rededicated on May 23, 1976, by the Rt. Rev. Harold L. Wright.
In 1988 the exterior of the church building was preserved and in 1992 a new pipe organ was installed. The Peragallo Organ Company built the organ, which contains 11 ranks of pipe work and 726 speaking pipes. It was dedicated at an evening ceremony and concert on November 29, 1992. In 1996 our tech-savvy rector, the Rev. Mark Cyr, was early to register the now much sought-after domain name christchurch.org and put us here on the worldwide web.
In 2001 the congregation and the community came together to restore and preserve the rectory. The floors and woodwork were restored, the kitchen was enlarged and modernized, wiring was upgraded, appliances were replaced with energy-efficient ones and the entire building was painted inside and out. The rectory was rededicated at a special service on November 11, 2001 by interim pastor, Ralph E. Peterson D.D.
We celebrated our 150th year in 2004, with former rectors Mitchell, Harbort, and Cyr joining our rector, J. Scott Barker, for a celebratory service. The 1866 time capsule was located in the foundations of the church in October 2004; the contents were perfectly preserved. Those documents and pictures were copied, archived and replaced in the capsule. On All Saints’ Day 2006, the 1866 time capsule was re interred with a new time capsule containing present-day mementos and family histories; the location is marked by a plaque in the northern exterior wall of the church.