Photo of St. Paul's Episopal Church

 

The origin of St. Paul's Episcopal Church is closely entwined with the origin of the Borough of Montvale itself. In fact, according to the calendar of Bishop Thomas A. Starkey of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, he "received a request from Mr. Francis Wheaton of Park Ridge, New Jersey asking for an establishment of a mission there, on Friday, August 31, 1894," which is the exact date on which the Borough of Montvale was officially formed.

On September 5, 1894 the Bishop "wrote to Mr. J. TerKuile (Jacob TerKuile was the first Mayor of Montvale, 1894-96), of New York City, in reference to the proposed mission at Park Ridge, 2-1/2 miles beyond Hillsdale." On Saturday evening, October 6, 1894, the Bishop reported that he "met at Hillsdale a deputation from Park Ridge and Montvale who wish a mission established in the latter place."

Apparently a St. Paul's Episcopal Society was formed shortly thereafter, for on November 9, 1894 The Bergen County Democrat related, "At a meeting of the ladies of St Paul's Episcopal Society of Montvale, called by the President of the Society, Mr. J. TerKuile, at his residence on Saturday, Nov 3, the following officers were unanimously elected. President Mrs. H. Boyd, Vice-President Mrs.F. A. Mittag. Sec. and Treas. Mrs. J. TerKuile. Plans for a church building have been kindly furnished by Mr. Reed, the well known architect of Woodcliff, and are in the hands of the trustees for consideration."

"Mr. Reed, the well known architect of Woodcliff" was Samuel Burrage Reed, a resident of Woodcliff (now Woodcliff Lake) and one of the most prominent architects in the country, who had been practicing architecture for about twenty-five years from an office in New York City prior to designing St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Montvale. Bloomingdale Church on 68th Street and Broadway, where limestone was first used in New York City, and Collegiate Church on Second Avenue are other examples of churches designed by Mr. Reed.

In New Jersey, Mr. Reed designed the Passaic County Courthouse in Paterson, after competing with forty-eight leading architects for the design commission. Still closer to home, he designed the first schoolhouse in the new Borough of Woodcliff, which was constructed in 1895 and which is still being used today and recognized as the oldest school in continuous use in Bergen County.

In addition to St. Paul's Episcopal Church in the new Borough of Montvale, S. Burrage Reed had something else in common with Montvale's first Mayor, Jacob TerKuile. Mr. Reed was the first Mayor of Woodcliff, being elected twice to that office.

On November 16, 1894, The Bergen County Democrat disclosed that "ground was broken on Saturday last for the new Episcopal Church, to be 25 x 42. The architecture is to be in the Corinthian order and is so arranged as to be at any time enlarged without interfering with its modest appearance. The outside walls are to be sixteen inches and are to be of the rough asheler (sic) order. The ground was kindly donated by Mayor Terkuile (sic) and will be bounded on three sides by public streets." Ashlar is defined as "square blocks of building stone or Masonry of such stones."

On Friday, May 3, 1895, The Bergen County Democrat stated that "on the coming Sabbath the Episcopaleans (sic) hold their first service in their new church", and the following week reported that "the new organ in the Episcopal church was used for the first time last Sunday." However, Archdeacon Jenvy and the Bishop's Chaplain, Rev. John Keller, visited the new church the following Friday evening, and the archdeacon was quoted in a diocesan report as saying "we visited Montvale and Park Ridge. These are continuous boroughs, a country road only dividing them, with a population of 600. In Montvale a most picturesque chapel is in the process of erection. The walls are of stones taken from the adjoining fields. The roof and gables are of frame with rustic finish. It is a marvel of cheapness. The stone walls cost only $340. The total cost of all will be only $1,500. We held service in the building, the first ever held in it. Sixty-five were in the congregation. All pledged themselves to the support of the work." Traditionally, the congregation has celebrated May 8 as the anniversary date of the first service.

In the Twenty Second Annual Convention Report, Archdeacon Jenvy reported, "On 2nd of August of last year I laid the corner stone of the mission church of St. Paul, Montvale. I described this unique and very attractive little church in my report a year ago. There is nothing like it in the Diocese."

The dynamic little church grew with the passing of years, adding the Parish Hall in 1925. In 1949 a Vicarage was built on additional land donated to the church by Mrs. Cora TerKuile in 1923. A much-needed kitchen was added in 1952. For several years, from the late forties until 1954, when Memorial School was built, the Kindergarten of the Montvale Public School system was conducted in the church's Parish Hall.

Having outgrown the Old Stone Church, the congregation built a new church in 1958 on a ten-acre site across Woodland Road from the existing church. From 1958 until 1963, the old church continued to serve as the Sunday School's classrooms and chapel and as the Parish Hall.

However, a Christian Education Building was constructed on the new site in 1963, and in 1965 the old church and rectory were sold to the "Go Ye Mission of Islip, NY", which founded the Church of Christ of Montvale, a mission supported by the Long Island church for many years.

During the late 1980s the church was vacant. However, the Old Stone Church is again serving as a House of the Lord for its present congregation, the International Christian Church.