St. George's Episcopal Church is centrally located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. Bedford-Stuyvesant is a predominately residential community which is situated in a five square-mile area in South Central Brooklyn.
The population and St. George's Church community are a diverse racial and ethnic population of Afro-American, Caribbean, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans and Caucasians. Some of the largest Baptist, Presbyterian, Congregational and Episcopal Parishes in New York City are located in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
St. George's Church was formally organized in October 1869. Eighteen months prior, services were conducted by Mr. Guion, founder of the Church, in a small frame building on Clifton Place near Marcy Avenue. This building, built to house a Methodist Chapel, later became a school and at the time Mr. Guion began his work, was used during the week as a carpenter shop.
In this place a very small congregation met weekly from the Spring of 1869 until the Fall of the same year. Then a mission Sunday-school building on the corner of Monroe and Marcy Avenues was obtained rent free, not three hundred feet from the present church. Here the congregation worshipped until the basement of their new church was ready for occupancy.
The second church building in the history of the parish was located on Greene Avenue between Marcy Avenue and Tompkins Avenue. With a great deal of fanfare the parish took possession of that church and held its first service there on February 27, 1870 only four months after the cornerstone was laid. Here the first Communion of the parish was celebrated on the third Sunday of occupancy; and in May 1870 the first Confirmation Service was held, at which time four persons were confirmed. The Church was not fully completed until October 1871. The congregation grew in numbers.
An application was made for admission to union with the newly formed (1869) Diocese of Long Island in 1873. This raised the question of the church's name. The original name of St. Thomas had been changed in the early days of the parish to Guion Church in honor of its founder. Exception was taken to this name and being contrary to the usages of the church. Upon appeal to the Supreme Court, the name of Guion Church was changed to that of St. George's Church of the City of Brooklyn, its present name.
By 1885 the parish had outgrown the size of the church located on Greene Avenue and worked to raise funds for the erection of a new church. Plans were drawn by R. M. Upjohn in the Fall of 1886, and on June 24, 1887, the cornerstone of the church at the corner of Marcy and Gates Avenues was laid by the Bishop of the Diocese of Long Island. The church was opened for worship on the First Sunday after Epiphany, January 1888. A Vested Choir was organized. The congregation strengthened in numbers. After the building of the church, work began on the parish house, which was ready for use in 1890. Meetings of the Sunday School and the Societies had been held in the old church on Greene Avenue, which now was razed to the ground.
The church suffered what seemed at first to be irreparable loss in the serious fire of January 1900. The Marcy Avenue Baptist Church (we believe to be Concord Baptist Church) cordially tendered the use of their Sunday-School Room for our church services. The characteristic energy of the congregation was manifested, however, and with the aid of the insurance, the church was rebuilt. From the period of 1900 to 1906 improvements were made to the buildings; and the mortgage on the previously existing structure was completely paid. The church blossomed and prospered and became a leader in its community.
With the coming of the years of the First World War, there was a gradual demographic change in the neighborhood which began to manifest itself in the life of the church. Upon the persuasion of the then Rector Clute and the Bishop, it was decided to open the doors of the church to all and make it really a church for all people.
In 1949 Rev. Henry B. Hucles, III became the Rector, to later become the Rt. Rev. Henry B. Hucles, III, Suffragan Bishop, Diocese of Long Island. By 1950 the church's membership had increased to more than 1,700 and church organizations flourished. These organizations include the Episcopal Churchwomen, the Altar Guild, St. Luke's Guild, the Rector's Guild, the Willing Workers, the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, the Episcopal Young Churchmen and two excellent choirs.
As a result of the rapid growth of St. George's, the physical facilities had to be extended. In 1969, at a cost of almost $200,000, an adjacent four-stored building on 454 Gates Avenue was acquired and renovated. This addition provided needed space for our Church School and doubled the capacity of the parish hall. Presently, the annex houses the offices of the Rector, Curate, Parish Administrator, the church offices, a well appointed meeting room for the Vestry and space for the Church School.
In the Spring of 1972, the pipe organ ceased to function and was replaced by a Saville 67-Stop Organ, at the time, the finest in electronic equipment. The quality of this organ is such that only the trained musical ear can tell that it is not a pipe organ.
Under the leadership of Rev. C. David Williams, who became Rector in 1984, in the late 1980's the church leased the plot of land at 804 Marcy Avenue, adjacent to the church from the City of New York. The church was able to acquire it in the mid-1990s, the church was also able to purchase the property to the immediate right of the leased land, 806 Marcy Avenue. These two lots now combine to form the present parking lot. In the 1990s, the church was able to obtain an abandoned building adjacent to the renovated four-stored building, 452 Gates Avenue.
The physical plant consists of the Church proper, the Parish Hall, the Choir Room, the parking lot, the Annex and adjacent building forming an 'L' shaped complex. The church is constructed of brick in the Victorian gothic style with an "A" frame roof. Its stained glass windows were smelted by the famous Tiffany Studios. The floor is of Terrazzo.
The Parish Hall, 456 Gates Avenue, is of typical masonry with an "A" frame roof. This structure adjoins the Church proper and houses the kitchen and the Parish Hall proper with the Choir Room being on the second floor of this structure.
The Annex is a rehabilitated four-stored apartment building, 454 Gates Avenue, that was gutted on acquisition and refurbished. The floors are poured concrete in a framework of structural steel. The facade is made of brick and the remainder of the structure is constructed of masonry. The first floor of the Annex is a lateral extension of the Parish Hall and allows events to be scheduled that were formerly too large for the original Parish Hall.
St. George's Episcopal Church was designated a Brooklyn Landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission of the City of New York in January 1977.