2012-07-06 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Belle Harbor, Rockaway Beach, N.Y.
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

On August 5, 1906 the cornerstone was laid for the Episcopal Church of St. Andrews-By-The-Sea, at Belle Harbor. The Spanish mission type ediface, of Mexican architecture, was built on the northwest corner of Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach 125 Street. The new church was a Mission of the Cathedral at Garden City, Long Island, and was built on eight lots of land donated by the West Rockaway Land Company, at a cost of $8,000. The seating capacity was for 150 persons to worship. St. Andrews was the only Episcopal Church west of Far Rockaway, the other being on Rockaway Turnpike, beside the railroad, in Lawrence, over the city line in Nassau County.

In 1924, lack of support almost caused the church to be abandoned, and there had been no regular pastor for some time. However, the ladies guild of the church reorganized the congregation of the church, after the mortgage was paid off through the will of a woman member, Sarah Tator, of Seaside. The membership was increased to 200, and a steady pastor was secured, even though the place was regarded as a mission. Services were increased to include a midnight mass at Christmas, and a choir was organized for the newly decorated interior. The Reverend Baxter Norris was the priest in charge at this time.

The church held on, and in 1949 ground was broken for a parish house, and it was noted that while the church was being built in 1905, services were held in the home of Mr. O.D. Gray. In 1950 a new altar was constructed inside the small church, which still drew the attention of all that passed by for the first time, marveling at its being here in Rockaway Beach (it looked out of place here).

During the next two decades the community changed, and there was no longer a need for a Methodist Episcopal Church in the west end. In 1971 the abandoned church was torn down for a parking lot/controversy! Later the Belle Harbor Home of the Sages was built on the site, at 209 Beach 125 Street, for assisted living and elder services

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