August Hawkins and his sister Prudence around 1900

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Building Inventory Form

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Unless indicated below, this is a transcript of the original Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities/Town of Brookhaven survey form.   Since most of the surveys were conducted in the late 1970's and early 1980's, much of the information reflects that time period. 

Corrections to obvious typographical and spelling errors have been made.  Corrections to factual errors in the original surveys, and updates or comments on the information are either enclosed in [square brackets], or are clearly indicated as updated material from the context of the comments. 

Sites which have a suffix of "S" are supplemental sites not included in the original surveys.


Building-Structure Inventory Form

Chapel house

 If checked, this is a Supplemental Form, not included in the original surveys.

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Inventory Code: Br05C
Prepared Date: 3/10/1975
Last modified: 4/16/2013
Original Submitter
Submitter Name: Mrs. Paul W. Bigelow
Submitter Address: 7 Thornhedge Road

Organization: Bellport-Brookhaven Historical Society
Identification
1-Building/Site Name:  
2a-County:   Suffolk 2b-Town:  Brookhaven 2c-Village:  Hamlet of Brookhaven
3-Street Location:   1 Chapel Avenue

 If checked, this site is within the Fire Place (Brookhaven Hamlet) Historic District

Ownership
   4a-Public     4b-Private
5a-Owner  (at original survey date):    Frank Creighton [1975] [Eben Ludlow, aft 1979 5b-Address:    1 Chapel Ave., Brookhaven
Use

6a-Original:    Meeting house

6b-Present:    private house

Accessibility
 7a-Visible From Road

 7b-Interior Accessible:
7b-Interior Comment:   No  
Building Materials 
   8a-Clapboard    8b-Stone    8c-Brick
   8d-Board & Batten    8e-Cobblestone    8f-Shingles
   8g-Stucco
8-Other:   shingles painted red.  
Structural System
   9a-Wood Frame Interlocking Joints    9b-Wood Frame Light Members:    9c-Masonry:
    9d-Metal
9d-Metal Comment:     
   9e-Other
9e-Other Comment:     
Condition
    10a-Excellent   10b-Good   10c-Fair     10d-Deteriorated
Integrity
   11a-Original Site  11b-Moved   If so, when?   [abt 1904]. [See Supp. Material]
11c-Alterations: 

[In 1899, the building was remodeled, and made larger by Augustus Floyd in honor of his mother.  At that time it was renamed the "Presbyterian Chapel."  See Supplemental Material.  In 1908 another addition was placed at the rear.  The following is the text as it appeared in the original data sheet for this field, prepared by Stephanie Bigelow.] 

Steeple added around 1890. Front section original.

 
Photo & Map
12-Photo Photos and images
13-Map
Threats
  14a-None Known:    14b-Zoning   14c-Roads
  14d-Developers :   14e-Deterioration
14f-Other:     
14-Comment:     
Related Outbuildings
and Property

  15a-Barn   15b-Carriage House  15c-Garage
  15d-Privy   15e-Shed   15f-Greenhouse
  15g-Shop   15h-Gardens   15i-Landscape Features
15i-Landscape Features:   
15j-Other:   
15-Comment:     
Surroundings of the Building
  16a-Open Land   16b-Woodland   16c-Scattered Bldgs.
  16d-Densely Built-up   16e-Commercial  16f-Industrial
  16g-Residential 16h-Other:   
Interrelationship of Building and Surroundings
17-Interrelationships:    
Other Notable Features of Building and Site
18-Notable Features: Flooring is of 2" boards of native pine, nailed to beams that are split native pine trees. Today this wood is as hard as glass.      
Significance
19-Initial Const Date:   Before 1840. [See Supplemental material]
19-Architect:    
19-Builder:  Richard Corwin, Jr.  
Historic and Architectural Importance
20-Importance:  

[The following is the text as it appeared in the original data sheet prepared by Stephanie Bigelow. Subsequent research has refined and corrected much of this information.  See Supplemental Material.]

Began as Congregational Church. Before 1900, deeded to Presbyterians who used it as parish house, lecture room. Later used as amateur playhouse. Moved across road, and steeple added by James Post. In 1945, sold to George Morse who used it as Antique Shop. Later sold as private home.

 
 
Sources
21-Sources:     

On Brookhaven 1873 map as "lecture room." (Belcher Hyde Atlas).

Mentioned by Prime, in 1845 History, as being a small Congregational Church.

** "Early Photographs of the Hamlet of Brookhaven collected by George Perley Morse 1945-1959. (aka The Morse Scrapbook)  Repository: Post-Morrow Foundation, RG1 Series 10.]

George Borthwick. The Church at the South: A History of the South Haven Church. Manuscript c. 1937.  Published 1989.

Minutes of the Fire Place Congregational Church, March 27, 1848.  (Purchase of Lecture Room) Original copy at the Post Morrow Foundation.

Richard A. Thomas.  Fire Place Congregational Church Minutes, Email to Ginny Waterman. Bellport Brookhaven Historical Society, March 30, 2009.

 
Theme
22-Theme:     
Prepared By:
  Original Ellen Williams. Supplemented by J. Deitz
Supplemental Material: 
  Untitled 2

Construction

The evidence suggests that the original section of the modern "chapel house" was constructed sometime around 1842, when they were said to have been first formally organized, or perhaps even a bit earlier when a group may have been meeting informally.  The germinal Fire Place Congregation church society needed a place to meet and hold services.  Since the congregation had few funds, "Richard Corwin" built for them a meeting house on the southwest corner of his farm.  Their building seems to have been a small, as they only had 10-15 members.  The lot was only 20' x 30'.  It's clear from Prime that it was being used by them in 1845.  Richard Corwin Sr.'s son, William H. Corwin, seems to have been among the original organizers of the Congregationalists. 

Until recently, there has been some uncertainty as to which Richard Corwin was responsible for its construction— father or son.  It was generally assumed that the son did not own the farmstead until after his father's death; however, the minutes of the society indicate that they purchased the meetinghouse from "Richard Corwin, Jun." in March 1848, before his father's death on 27 Oct 1848, certainly suggesting that Richard Jr owned it at that time.  It was also known that Richard Corwin (Sr.) maintained his membership in the South Haven Presbyterian parish until his death, and was active in its affairs—raising the question as to why he would be a benefactor to the "competing" Congregational church society.

However, the deed for the conveyance of the main Corwin farm from father to son has been found.  It is dated 1 Jan 1834 and filed with the Suffolk County clerk on 31 Jan 1834 (Liber S, Page 328).

From this evidence it is clear that Richard Corwin, Jr. owned the farmstead, and was the original builder of the structure.

Borthwick comments (page 218):

"... the Congregational element [in Fire Place and South Haven] was never strong, either died out or turn Presbyterian…. [By 1875 it was nearly extinct.] In a few years, Mr. Booth of Brookhaven Village was the only Congregationalist left. In the meantime, the meetings of the of the Sunday School and young people's organization of the South Haven Church were being held here, as well as the evening service. So Mr. Booth generously gave the deed to the land and buildings to the Presbyterians. From then until the fall of 1899, when Mr. Augustus Floyd, a trustee from Mastic, had the building remodeled and larger as a memorial tribute to his mother 'who did much in enlarging and sustaining the usefulness of the South Haven Church,' it was known as 'the Lecture Room.' After that date, 'this place for religious exercise is now to be known as 'The Presbyterian Chapel.' About 1908, the 'Chapel Benefit Society' had an addition built on to the rear of it, thus making it adequate for service as a parish house for the South Haven Church."

**According to George Perley Morse --

 "The original was called a Lecture Room or what is called today a Community Center. It first stood on land about 20 ft. by 30 ft. and close to the road. The flooring of the old part of the building is wide 2 in. boards of native pine, nailed to beams that are spit of half native pine trees. Today this wood is nearly as hard as glass.

"On March 4, 1848 a Congregational Church group paid Richard Corwin about $150.00 for the land and building. Prime's History of Long Island of 1845 says "There is a small Congregational Church of eleven (11) members that meet in a building fitted up for the purpose of worship. The Rev. Nathaniel Hawkins occasionally preached there."

"The last member of this group deeded the property over to the Presbyterian Church. It was then moved over and on about 100 feet square piece of land, and a steeple and two rooms were added with money given by Mr. James H. Post. It was used mostly as a Sunday School and for Church suppers, and also as an amateur Play House.

"The Presbyterians sold it in 1945, when they took over the Methodist Church on Beaver Dam Road. It is now a private dwelling."]

Brookhaven Congregational Church Minutes, March 27, 1848

These Minutes recorded the purchase of the "Lecture Hall" from "Richard Corwin Jun." in 1848 and suggest that the the building existed before the Congregationalists made the purchase.  It may be that it wasn't until 1848 that the small congregation had sufficient resources to purchase the building.

(The term "Lecture Room" was used by Protestant denominations in the 19th century to identify a structure used principally for adult educational purposes.  It was often a detached building, and could be well removed from the main church structure.  In addition, religious services were sometimes held in it during the middle of the week when attendance would be too small for the main church building.)

Chapel House "moved" 

In about 1903/4, James Post donated more land to the church (he and his wife having already donated land for a manse e.g. parsonage  in 1902) to allow the Chapel House to be "moved." This move probably took place in the year 1903, but it might have taken place anytime between the Annual Meeting of 1903 and June 25, 1904.  The following record appears in the Presbyterian parish's Trustee Minutes, which are in storage at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia:

At the Annual Parish Meeting held on June 25th 1904 Mr. Augustus Floyd was chosen chairman.
  Treasurer's report was read and accepted.
  Mr. Augustus Hawkins & Mr. James H. Post were elected Trustees to hold Office until the last Sat. in Jun 1907.
  Mr. Augustus Floyd was elected President of the Board of Trustees for 1 yr.  But declined to serve, owing to so much personal business.  And Mr. Augustus Hawkins ws elected in his place.
  George Miller was elected Clerk and Treasurer for 1 yr.
  Henry Ghoday, Mr. Emmett Hawkins were elected returning officers.
  A Vote of thanks was given to Mr. James H. Post for his generosity in giving more land, and, moving the Chapel at Brookhaven.
  It was voted that the money received from the sale of the right to subscribe for New Stock of the Bank of Commerce be increased to $250 and invested in Atlantic Script.  George Miller Clerk

The above reference seems to settle when the building was moved.  It does not settle where it was moved from.  The original historic site survey form prepared by Stephanie Bigelow recorded that it was moved from "across the road."  Her understanding appears to have been a misinterpretation of the actual events.

Borthwick indicated that the transfer from the remnant Congregationalists to the Presbyterians occurred sometime after 1885, during the pastorate of the Rev. Frederick Van Deuser Frisbie, but made no mention of it being moved.  The 1873 Beers map shows it at its approximate present site well before this transferred to the Presbyterians. 

An exhaustive review of the historical record, while not without some ambiguities, lead Dr. Richard Thomas to conclude  that its "move" was from one location on the present lot to another more convenient site on the same expanded lot, following additions purchased by James Post's from Louise Goodall in 1903 (see explanation and map at Post Addition to the Chapel Property).

 Pastors

The Rev. Nathaniel Hawkins appears to have been the principal pastor during the earlier years of the Fire Place congregation.  He had been ordained as pastor of the New Village (now Centereach), NY, Congregational Church in 1823 at  age 46, and served this congregation for some 20 years.  Evidence suggests that he was licensed to preach earlier.  He then removed to the family farm in Fire Place/South Haven, on Little Neck at about the time when the Fire Place congregation was formed and their meeting house erected.  He continued to serve the congregation until near his death in 1860.

From about 1850 onward, the Rev. John Gibbs also provided ministerial services to the congregation.  Rev Gibbs was also the stated supply to the Bellport, NY, Congregational Church, and resided in Bellport.  He likely provided these services until near his death in 1874.  By this time the congregation was nearly extinct, and the property was deeded to the South Haven Presbyterian Parish about 1878.


Sale of Chapel House by the South Haven Presbyterian Church

By 1945, the South Haven Presbyterian Church no longer had need for the Chapel, having acquired the former Brookhaven Methodist Church building on Beaver Dam road (another story, see Site Datasheet Old Methodist Church,  ID Br29C).  On February 25, 1946, at a congregational meeting, the congregation approved the sale of the property.  George Perley Morse purchased the site for $2500, and by June 1946, he and his wife Ruth  had established an antiques store in it.  However, because of legal issues, probably related to the original deed of transfer from the Fire Place congregational church society to the South Haven Presbyterian church, the sale was not finalized until 1948.  The deed of sale was recorded Jan 22, 1948 at Libor 2796, p. 563. 

The following newspaper clipping was undated and its source unidentified, but probably was from the Patchogue Advance in May or June of 1955, when the Bulls were believed to have moved into the residence:

"Mr. And Mrs. Marshall Bull and daughter Katie, formerly of South Haven are now occupying their new home, the Chapel house, on the corner of Chapel road and south Country road.  Owned and operated since 1944 by Mr. And Mrs. George P. Morse as an antique shop, the chapel, according to church records studied by Mr. Morse, dates back to 1848.  Historians think it may have been built as early as 1837.  Organized as a congregational church on land given by Richard Corwin, it became a butcher shop during the Civil war.  When the congregation decreased, it became a lecture hall and was supported by the community.  The last of the congregational members, William Booth, turned the church over to the Presbyterians, who used it as a church and Sunday school until the Morses took possession.  The original structure had a wing added in 1910.  Funds donated by James H. Post enabled the building to be moved from the corner back to its present site.  The original wagon shed still stands on the property."