I urge our City Council to landmark St. John’s Episcopal Church in the Bergen Hill neighborhood at their next meeting. The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) has determined that it is eligible for the State and National Registers of Historic Places. It was unanimously recommended for landmark status by the Jersey City Historic Preservation Commission and the Jersey City Planning Board.
St. John’s was the largest Episcopal Church congregation in New Jersey. Many of the leading citizens of Jersey City were members. In the 1960s, under the leadership of the late Reverend Robert W. Castle, Jr., it was at the forefront of the civil rights movement in Jersey City.
The property’s owner is the Episcopal Diocese of Newark who has no investment in the St. John’s Church property. The diocese did not build or operate it. The church was built and run by the local congregation, which the diocese kicked out and then let fall to ruin with complete disregard for its importance to the city and local community. Profits from the sale of the spectacular appointments, including Tiffany windows and the beautiful altar, went to the diocese leaving nothing even though these were memorials bought and paid for by important local people who are far from forgotten. The diocese deserves NO consideration in the landmarking process.
Let’s do the right thing and protect and preserve this church through adaptive reuse rather than demolition.