Thursday, October 14, 2010

St. Andrew's Dune Church

From The Southampton Press, “Quaint Interesting St. Andrew’s Church; Organized Nearly a Half Century Ago by Our Summer Residents,” October 6, 1927 :

“The Episcopal Church on the Dunes, at the foot of the Town Pond (Agawam Lake), is of interest to any one visiting Southampton for the first time. The church was organized in 1879 by a few of the summer residents and at a time when the popularity of Southampton as a summer resort was just beginning to gain much favor. All the sittings in the church were made free, and, as the corporation organized under the church laws of New York, no pews could ever be rented. The name of St. Andrew’s Dune Church, the corporate title, savors of the ancient town of Dunkirke, which took its name from a church on the dunes. The Southampton church has an interesting history. Its nave was the original Life Saving Station, erected by the United State Government in 1851, and, in 1879, upon completion of a new building by government, it was purchased by Dr. T. Gaillard Thomas. It then stood on the east shore of the pond, or lake. Upon proposal to organize a church on the beach, the building was donated to the congregation, removed to its present site, and located on land set apart for the purpose, by the late C. Wyllys Betts, who had purchased the land at the south end of the pond. The transepts and chancel were subsequently added, and the nave widened, so that the building had more than three times its original capacity, seating about 325 people. So great was the desire to attend that in 1898 the trustees considered a much larger addition, without, however, materially altering its attractive character of architecture.

Many of the most noted preachers of the Episcopal Church and several of the Bishops were early preachers within its walls.

This church is noted for containing more objects of historical interest, perhaps, than any other church of its size in the country. Under the posts that support the four corners of the belfry roof are four curiously carved heads of English oak – an angel, an abbot, a friar and a devil. These heads are part of the original structure of Blythebourne (pronounced Blyboro) Church, Suffolk, England, built in 1442. At the restoration of that church, in 1882…..these ancient heads were presented to St. Andrew’s Dune Church, in recognition of the restoration fund of the English Church by a former trustee, Wyllys Betts.

In the chancel, the side or credence table, which is used to hold the elements before the Communion, is supported by a stone column and a base which formerly adorned one of the doorways of old Netley Abbey, funded by Henry the Second, at Southampton, England, in 1219, an interesting relic of the church of the old Southampton, in chapel of its newer namesake in America. Some of the Communion vessels are also of great value; the cup, or chalice, is of Florentine manufacture of date about 1550, and is adorned with enamels (now much defaced) and an inscribed panel which seems to bear the name of Angelo Nanis, who was an abbot of Vajano, near Florence, at about that period. The plate, or paten, is a curious piece of Irish silver, date 1684, and bearing some antique armorial bearings – perhaps of the noble family of Waterford. The principal Bible and prayer book were printed in the reign of Charles L, and contain petitions for “our soverign, Lord Charles,” and his queen, “Henrietta Maria.”

The church also has memorials of the locality. A fine tablet in the style of the Seventeenth Century commemorates the 250 anniversary of the foundation of Southampton (which was effected in June, 1640), and records the names of the founders of the town, and quotes an extract from their pious declaration of principles.

Memorial windows also enrich the interior and preserve in affectionate remembrance the names of C. Wyllys Betts, Mrs. Henry E. Howland (to whom the church was for many years indebted for leadership in the music) Mrs. Mary E. Holbrook, Miss de Luse, the children of Dr. H. Holbrook Curtis, and two grandchildren of George R. Schieffelin, Esq., the children of his daughters. A beautiful brass cross on the choir wall bears an inscription showing that it was erected by loving friends to the memory of Jay Schieffelin.”

Additional information about Lifesaving Stations, by Julie Greene: The original stations were unmanned and built to house only life-saving apparatus. They were run by volunteer crews from November to April. Originally overseen by the Treasury Department, the stations were not officially recognized until the mid-1870s, thanks to Sumner I. Kimball, the department’s head. He appropriated $200,000 for the construction of stations, employing six-man crews year round at all stations and establishing guidelines and regulations. Rigorous physicals were mandatory and only the most capable men were hired for the job.

By the late 1870s, Life Saving Stations were dotted along the eastern seaboard approximately five miles apart and linked by telephone about 10 years later. The post at Mecox was built in 1877. All of them were built using the same blueprints/design.

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  1. This is one of my favorite buildings in Southampton! Thanks for all the interesting history.

  2. Fascinating posts. The spires , or rather belfries of the church were knocked down in the hurricane of 1938, there's an interesting picture of them lying on the ground.

    In the 1920's I've read that rich families along Lake Agawam would take gondolas across the lake for services at the church, and a day at the beach. One lady had her gondola imported from Venice, a fabulously ornate thing. Forgetting the name alas.

    Loving your history posts very very much! Please keep them up. Even if comments are few, you are building a valuable archive of easily accessible posts about Southampton history, a wonderful endeavor and much appreciated.