Church History

St. Mary’s-In-Tuxedo Episcopal Church
A Brief History of the Church, Buildings and Grounds

March 2011
In 1886 when Tuxedo Park was first created, church ties of members remained in Manhattan; however, almost immediately families began to spend more and more time in the community. Several of the Tuxedo Club’s original members saw the need to have a church and built a small chapel, designed by James Brown Lord, at the site of the Gulf Station on Route 17 which opened June 1887. Later in the year the Episcopal Diocese of New York granted permission to make the church an official parish.

In December 1887, Henry I. Barbey, Pierre Lorillard’s brother-in-law, offered to build and furnish a more substantial church and purchased a plot of land inside Tuxedo Park’s gates but still accessible to the new hamlet. William Appleton Potter, brother of the Rev. Henry Codman Potter, Bishop of the Diocese of New York, and uncle of Vestryman James Brown Potter designed a new church, which incorporated native stone for the undercroft and the shingle style in the upper story. The church was consecrated on October 14th, 1888, by Bishop Potter with the Rev. Romaine S. Mansfield of Suffern as acting Rector. Later in the year, the Rev. Vaughn Colston was called to the new church as the first rector.

Rev. Colston’s assignment was not an easy one. A local paper reported that “The Park contained a few houses and fewer church people; the (hamlet) was a mere handful of cottages, (and) the North Gate settlement (was) wild and unkempt. In the midst of difficulties, Father Colston labored faithfully, and amid the   storms of winter, his well-known figure, and that of his plucky and zealous wife, might be seen passing to and fro on their errands of mercy. (Unexpectedly) one summer Rev. Colston sailed for England, ostensibly for a holiday, and never returned.”

The Rev. George Merrill was then called as Rector, and with each year the community expanded resulting in two services including an afternoon service for servants and children. In 1895 a rectory still in use was built. One of Rev Merrill’s first acts was to ”condemn” the use of a separate entrance for hamlet residents. His daughter recalled “the Good Lord certainly didn’t want two doors; he welcomed all men as equals.” In 1896, fourteen year old, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was godfather to his cousin, Sara Roosevelt Collier at her baptism held at St. Mary’s. 1n 1969 another St. Mary’s baptism had a notable godmother, the Duchess of Windsor, to the son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Mortimer.

In 1901, the Parish House was constructed and electric lights used for the first time. Several stained glass windows were installed, designed by leading firms, John LaFarge, Tiffany Studios and Frederick Lamb.

In 1910, the Churchyard was opened. Emily Price Post, daughter of Tuxedo Park original architect and author of Etiquette is buried there. In memory of Henry Tilford, the Church Sanctuary was completely redesigned in 1922 by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, architect of St. Thomas Fifth Avenue. In 1937, Angier Biddle Duke, who later served as Ambassador to El Salvador, Denmark, Spain and Morocco and who was chief of protocol for two Presidents, married Priscilla St. George in a “fashionable wedding” at St. Mary’s.

The Chapel of the Holy Spirit was added to the undercroft in 1941,using pillars from the rose gardens of the former Mortimer estate, “Mortemar”, and an Italian marble hearthstone from the

“Mortemar” dining room for the altar. The iron-grilled doors also came from “Mortemar”. A beautiful embroidered funeral pall was made and donated by Katharine St. George, later a member of Congress for 28 years and first woman on the Armed Forces Commission. Congresswoman St. George was responsible for Tuxedo’s zip code being “10987”. An elevator was added in 1956 and a new education building constructed in 1962. In 1971 a new organ was installed with nearly 2,000 pipes, ranging from the size of a lead pencil to 16’ in length.

In 1982, St. Mary’s opened a PreSchool for the children of the greater Tuxedo community. The school operated until 2010 when it was closed for a year for re-organization. Plans are to reopen in September 2011, once again as a ministry and service to the community.     

Once a lawn graced completely the front of the church but now a parking lot covers a large portion of the original lawn. The parking lot, used for many purposes is the site of the popular Memorial Day services which has had many notable speakers including Lt Col. Laura Barone, one of the first women to graduate from U.S. Military Academy and U.S. Olympic Gold Medal winner, Richard Murphy. Beautiful trees grace the remaining lawn and Churchyard including a huge magnolia and a stand of tamaracks.
Past and Present Rectors:
1888-1891 The Rev. Vaughn Colston

1892-1894 The Rev. W. McCarthy Windsor

1894-1903 The Rev. George Merrill

1903-1910 The Rev. William Fitz-Simon

1911-1912 The Rev. Malbone Burkhead

1912-1937 The Rev. Robert S. W. Wood

1937-1952 The Rev. Leon E. Cartwell

1953-1969 The Rev. Fenimore E. Cooper

1969-1981 The Rev. James R. Leo

1981-2006 The Rev. Dr. Edwin H. Cromey

2006-2007 The Rev. David Killeen, Interim

2007-present The Rev. Elizabeth S. McWhorter