St. James Episcopal Church
2500 Jerome Avenue
Bronx, NY 10468
Phone: (718) 367-0655
Fax: (718) 367-2623
Rev. Br. Tobias Stanislas Haller, BSG, Vicar
Hours open to the public
Tuesday and Thursday – 11:00 – 4:00PM
Archives are available by appointment only.
History of the Institution
Established in 1853, St. James Episcopal Church was founded by wealthy residents located in the town of Fordham. During the nineteenth century, Fordham, which would eventually become part of The Bronx, consisted of rolling hills, country farms, and a Jesuit college, which eventually became Fordham University. The town also contained country estates that belonged to wealthy individuals that were looking for a place to worship since there was “no Protestant Episcopal [churches] in the Manor of Fordham.” 1 The newly established church held services at the Manor Reformed Church on Kingsbridge Road and was officiated by Rev. Washington Rodman of Grace Church in West Farms. 2
A year after the church was established; Rev. Joshua Weaver was appointed minister of St. James Church. The parish also purchased small schoolhouse, which was relocated to Jerome Avenue near Fordham Road. Almost ten years after Rev. Weaver’s appointment as minister, Rev. Thomas Richey became new rector of the church. During Richey’s tenure, a church was constructed and consecrated on November 1, 1865. The building, which was modeled after early English churches, included several stained glass windows that were manufactured by the Royal Stained Glass Factory in Munich. 3
Shortly after the new church was constructed, Rev. Weaver stepped down as minister of the parish in 1867. After an extensive search, Rev. Charles Comfort Tiffany was appointed as the new rector that December. Rev. Tiffany was a relative of Louis Comfort Tiffany, the American artist who is well known for his stained glass windows. Through this connection, St. James contains six Tiffany windows, which include “The Last Supper,” “The True Vine,” The Resurrection Morn,” “Lilies and Apple Blossoms,” “The Resurrection Angel,” “Saints Monica and Augustine.” 4
Throughout the late nineteenth century, the parish continued to grow. In 1883, a rectory was constructed and, a few years later, a new wing of the church was built that housed the parish’s Sunday school program and community outreach projects. The parish also established a chapel in the Mount Hope neighborhood of The Bronx. Eventually, parish of the chapel became independent and renamed Saint Edmunds Church. 5
In October of 1904, the vestry called Rev. DeWitt Pelton to serve as the new minister of St. James Church. Pelton’s provided the parish spiritual guidance and support during World War I and the Great Depression. During World War I, over eighty individuals from the parish served and four died. In the 1920s, due to housing shortages in the Fordham community, the vestry approved the constructed of an apartment house on the corner of the church’s property. The new apartment building also provided apartments for church staff and office space. However, shortly after the building was constructed, the Great Depression began, which let to many vacant apartments and caused the church to loose a great deal of money. 6
In 1934, Rev. Arthur V. Litchfield replaced Rev. Pelton as minister of St. James. Despite many improvements and additions to the church, the parish continue suffer financially throughout World War II. As a result, the apartment house and the vestry were sold. Eventually, a new vestry was purchased on Davidson Avenue, which is located near the church. 7
Rev. Basil G. Law was appointed as minister of the church in 1959. During this time, the racial demographics of the parish were changing. The Fordham community became increasingly African American and Afro-Caribbean. In the late 1960s and 1970s, The Bronx went through a period of rapid decline. Arson, drugs, and other crimes were destroying once stable neighborhoods. Originally, most of the problems were located in the South Bronx. However, by the mid-1970s, neighborhoods in the Northwest Bronx, including Fordham, were also suffering from increasing crime and abandonment. As a result, St. James Church and several other congregations founded the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC) in 1974. The church continues to play an active role in the organization. 8
Due to the problems facing The Bronx, the church had a difficult time locating a new minister after Rev. Law retired in 1990. Throughout the 1990s, the church had several different ministers until the current priest, Rev. Tobias Haller, was appointed. The church, which mostly consists of Afro-Caribbeans, continues to hold weekly services in the Fordham neighborhood. 9
List of Ministers
Joshua Weaver (1854-1863)
Thomas Richey, D.D. (1863-1867)
Charles C. Tiffany, D.D. (1867-1871)
Mytton Maury (1871-1875)
Joseph Blanchard, D.D. (1875-1885)
Charles J. Holt (1885-1904)
DeWitt L. Pelton, PhD (1904-1934)
Arthur V. Litchfield, M.A., L.Th. (1934-1959)
Basil G. Law, M.A., B.D., S.T.M. (1959-1990)
Thomas Mercer, M.A. (1991-1995)
Ronald T, Lau, M.Div., S.T.M. (1996-1998)
William Boatright, M.Div., S.T.M. (1998-1999)
Tobias Stanislas Haller, BSG, M.Div. (1999-Present)
Scope and Content
This collection contains the following records:
Vestry minutes (1853-present; with the exception of minutes from the 1960s and 1990s)
Baptismal, marriage, confirmation, burial and membership roles (1853-present). Please note that modern records are stored electronically.
Annual reports (1853-present)
Anniversary journals (1928, 1938, 1953, 2003)
Fundraising journals (1990-present)
There are also files entitled “ephemera” that contain newspaper clippings, correspondence, sermons and photographs.
Overall holdings of archival collection:
Approximately 20 cubic feet
Overall holdings of archival material regarding African Americans in the Bronx:
Approximately 10 cubic feet.
The collection has been organized by the vicar. However, a finding aid has not been published for this collection.
Associated Collections and Other Research Material
Among the Elms of Fordham: The Sesquicentennial Historical Gazette of Saint James Episcopal Church in the Manor of Fordham. Published by St. James Church, 2003 (copy at The Bronx County Historical Society).
The Diocese of New York of the Episcopal Church
Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition
St. James Church, Fordham, New York, NY – The First One Hundred Years 1853-1953. Published by St. James Church, 1953 (copy at The Bronx County Historical Society).
Saint James Eightieth Anniversary: Parish History. Published by St. James Church, 1939 (copy at The Bronx County Historical Society).
Survey conducted by Megan A. Hibbitts in 2008.
1 Notes from William Watson Waldron as quoted in St. James Church: The First One Hundred Years, 1953, 9.
2 Ibid, 10.
3 Among the Elms of Fordham: The Sesquicentennial Historical Gazette of Saint James Episcopal Church in the Manor of Fordham (Saint James Church, The Bronx, New York, 2003).
4 Ibid, 52-60.
5 Ibid, 21-27.
6 Ibid, 31-37.
7 Ibid, 37-38.
8 Ibid, 39.
9 Ibid, 41-46.