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Queens Chronicle

St. Matthew’s Church in Woodhaven may be landmarked

Historic cemetery on St. Matthew’s site also proposed for preservation

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Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 11:50 am, Thu Dec 27, 2012.

Surrounded by modern houses and apartment buildings, the stone structure of St. Matthew’s Episcopalian Church in Woodhaven looks more like it belongs in a rustic town in the English countryside than a modern urban neighborhood on this side of the pond.

The Gothic stone church at 84-45 96 St. is located about a block north of Jamaica Avenue, a few blocks south of Park Lane South. It is no longer used for worship. The parish disbanded in May 2011 and the church has been inactive ever since, but a new congregation is expected to move into the church soon.

Adjacent to the church, also on its property, is what some say is an even more historical site: the Wyckoff-Snedicker Cemetery.

The push to landmark the church, which was built during the 1920s, was reignited last month by Councilman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), and supported by Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, and the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society.

“It would be exciting,” Wendell said, “especially if we could landmark the cemetery.”

Kate Moody, a representative from Crowley’s office, said the councilwoman supports landmarking the church as well as the cemetery.

Alexander Blenkinsopp, a member of Community Board 9, was baptized at the church and has lived down the block from it his entire life. He said making the church a landmark would go a long way to protecting the structure as well as preserving important parts of the neighborhood’s history.

“I would enthusiastically support the landmarking of St. Matthews,” Blenkinsopp said. “The church’s condition has deteriorated.”

He called the cemetery a “historical gem,” and noted many of the people buried there are original settlers of Woodhaven. The graves, some of which date back to the late 18th century, have been swallowed up by overgrowth; and the cemetery, despite being surrounded by gates, is full of pollution and garbage, as is the rest of the property surrounding the church.

“It’s now in terrible shape; that’s a real shame,” he said. “It’s a nuisance to neighbors and disrespectful to those buried there and shows a lack of care for our history”

The cemetery, which is the final resting place for more than 200 people including members of the Wyckoff and Snedicker families who settled in what is now Woodhaven in the 1700s, was restored in the 1990s but lately has been overrun by overgrowth and garbage. Neighbors report that homeless people have been seen in the cemetery at night.

Blenkinsopp added that he believes the church and the cemetery had the potential to be “a source of pride” to the neighborhood and serve as a place where residents can learn of the community’s rich, and relatively obscure, history.

“I’m not even sure how many people know how nice it is inside,” he said.

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