Church of the Mediator
3045 Kingsbridge Avenue at the southwest corner of West 231th Street
Today’s church was originally “The Church of the Mediator, Yonkers.” It was established as a missionary outreach of St. John’s Church at Gerry Square in Yonkers; and incorporated as a new parish in 1855 under the Protestant Episcopal Society. When the Mediator’s first frame church was built on donated land in 1857 there were no Episcopal churches from Yonkers south to Carmansville in upper Manhattan. Though its rural location was sparsely settled, the church survived its early years largely due to the generosity and loyalty of prominent area families like the Douglas,’ Godwin’s, Babcock’s, Van Cortlandt’s and Delafield’s.
The present Gothic Revival gray fieldstone church was designed by English-born architect Henry Vaughan (1845-1917). Vaughan designed a Gothic style rectory (never executed) for the church and memorial fountain (now in disuse) which is still prominently positioned near the street corner. Vaughan studied with George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907) then the leading British church architect working in the Gothic Revival style. Vaughan went on to popularize the Gothic Revival style in the United States, especially in Christian churches. He worked on several chapels of New York City’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and even teamed up with Bodley to work on the original section of Washington’s National Cathedral.
The present church was built in stages and finally completed in 1914. The basement was roofed over in 1907 for lower church services, but it was 1913 before the first service was held in the completed upper church. Climbing up the hill of West 231st Street from Broadway, one is struck by the height of the Church and its impressive side tower. Bishop William Thomas Manning aptly termed the neighborhood church a “little cathedral of the Bronx” at its 1927 consecration—the year the parish finally cleared all its debts.
The Mediator’s entrance porch projects from the front wall of the church, below a substantial stained glass window. It has a high wood-paneled ceiling and side wall wainscoting. The chancel is deep, and notable for its stone arch, rose window, Skinner organs, and carved figures. Sculptor George Tinworth’s terra cotta panels are above the church altars. One could easily miss the side chapels of the Blessed Virgin and of Christ the King. The latter has two inspiring Tiffany stained glass windows.
The Church of the Mediator has a dwindling congregation and pressing building restoration issues. In recent years the church sold its westernmost property facing onto the giant Corlear-Sycamore tree—estimated to be 180 years old and thought to be the oldest living thing in the Bronx. The church is holding on, despite the tempting offers of developers who would like to acquire its remaining land.
Janet Butler Munch