Town House

Church and Sunday in Old New York,
page 5 of 16

In 1715 the second Albany church was built, on the site of the old one. As Pepys tells of St. Paul’s of London, so tradition says this Albany church was built around the first one, that the congregation were only three weeks deprived of the use of the church, and the old one was carried out “by piece meal.” At any rate, it was precisely similar in shape, but was a substantial edifice of stone. This building was not demolished until 1806.

The sittings in this church sold for thirty shillings each, and were, as it was termed, “booked to next of kin.” When the first owner of a seat died (were he a man), the seat descended to his son or the eldest of his grandsons; if there was no son nor grandson, to his son-in-law; this heir being in default, the sitting fell to a brother, and so on. When the transfer was made, the successor paid fifteen shillings to the church. A woman’s seat descended to her daughter, daughter-in-law, or sister. Sittings were sold only to persons residing in Albany County. When a seat was not claimed by any heir of a former owner, it reverted to the church.

This church had some pretence to ornamentation. The windows were of stained glass decorated with the coat-of-arms of various Albany families. The panes with the Van Renssellaer and Dudley arms are still in existence. Painted escutcheons also hung on the walls, as they did in the church in Garden Street, New York. This was a custom of the Fatherland. A writer of that day said of the church in Harlem, “It is battered as full of scutcheons as the walls can hold.”

The meeting-house sometimes bore other decorations, —often “Billets of sales,” and notices of vendues or “outcrys.” Lost swine and empounded swine were signified by placards; town meetings and laws were posted. In the Albany church, when there was rumor of an approaching war with France, “powder, bales,” and guns to the number of fifty were ordered to be “hung up in ye church,” — a stern reminder of possible sudden bloodshed. “Ye fyre-masters” were also ordered to see that “ye fyre-ladders and fyre-hooks were hung at ye church.”

In 1698 a stone church was built in Flatbush. It cost nearly sixteen thousand guilders. It had a steep four-sided roof, ending in the centre in a small steeple. This roof was badly constructed, for it pressed out the upper part of one wall more than a foot over the foundation, and sorely bent the braces. The pulpit faced the door, and was flanked by the deacons’ bench on one side and the elders’ bench on the other.


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