Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Risen from the Ashes: Church of the Redeemer, Longport, New Jersey

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Risen from the Ashes: Church of the Redeemer, Longport, New Jersey

Article excerpt

A summer chapel in the Diocese of Newjersey since 1908, the Church of the Redeemer is located in Longport, a borough of Atlantic County, on the south tip of Absecon Island. The island also comprises Margate, Ventnor, and Atlantic City-home to the boardwalk, casinos, and the Miss America Pageant. At the 2010 census, there were 895 year-round residents in Longport, ninety-nine per cent white. (Atlantic City has almost forty thousand residents, nearly forty per cent African American; on a summer weekend, the population there surges to 128,000.) Longport's median household income is over $66,000, and the average price of a housing unit more than $900,000*-it is a vacation getaway location, after all. In summer, Longport's population swells to almost 7,000. The numbered streets that traverse the island start at Thirty-sixth Avenue and end at Eleventh, owing to erosion of 180 acres of sandy soil from 1900 to 1916. In recent years, many of the town's modest bungalows have been replaced by condominium buildings and multistory mansions, some of them fanciful imitations along Victorian lines.

Over the years, Longport has been home not only to this church but also to a gospel hall, the Betty Bacharach Home for Afflicted Children, several farms, the Great Egg Coast Guard Station, and the Devonshire and Aberdeen Hotels. In 1911, the prominent Philadelphia businessman Peter A. B. Widener built the Widener Industrial School, which provided a rigid schedule of rehabilitation for children with infantile paralysis and tuberculosis of the spine. Longport served as the southern terminus of the Atlantic City & Shore Railroad, and as a ferry transfer point for boats to Ocean City, the next barrier island to the south. None of this exists still.

In June of 2012, the Spanish-style Church of the Redeemer burned to the ground when an electric pole fell on the wooden structure and sparked a fire during a strong storm. For several years subsequently, summer services were held under a tent. Now, the Church of the Redeemer has been rebuilt according to its original architectural drawings- although raised in elevation to avoid flooding and with modern features such as fire suppression, an elevator, and air conditioning. Money for rebuilding came from an insurance policy with $1 million in art coverage, as well as numerous donations-including one from the Jewish Federation of Atlantic & Cape May Counties. The church has yet to replace the tower bells, having raised $90,000 toward a $130,000 goal.

The new structure's stucco-clad exterior is actually cast concrete, and the roof replicates the original terra cotta tile-although lacking the original's variety of hues. The new tiles were manufactured by the Ludowici Roof Tile Company, established in 1888 and makers of the original roof. The interior is clad in dark paneling, replicating details such as ceiling beams, choir stalls, and altar affixed to the wall.

Still in business today, the Willet Hauser Architectural Stained Glass Company-who created the church's windows in the 1930s-found the original working drawings for the windows, and re-created them. Some of the glass was manufactured especially to look old, and some of it was authentically antique, imported from England and Germany. The ten main windows feature nautical themes among the biblical ones: rope and rigging, wooden boats, sea horses, jellyfish, and shells. The cost of refabricating the windows alone came to nearly $900,000.

The Moeller organ from 1961 has been replaced by a similar one built by the Midland Pipe Organ Company. In a bulletin insert one Sunday, the church proclaimed, "at Redeemer, we stand fast with history and tradition to play the best liturgical, classical, and secular music possible."

According to local lore, the original congregation was Quaker, like many of Longport's first residents. The church subsequently adopted the denomination of its benefactor, Joseph P. Remington. The likely architect was Remington's friend H. …

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