The push to save St. Matthew's
by Ed Wendell
Dec 12, 2012 | 4595 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
St. Matthew's Episcopal Church on 96th Street has been inactive since May 2011, but it looks as if it will be the center of attention in 2013 with a new group taking over, considerable repairs done to the outside and the hope that it could become the first location in Woodhaven to ever be designated a landmark.

This, along with many other exciting topics, will be on the 2013 agenda of the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society.

Recently, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley signaled her support for the designation of St. Matthew’s in a letter to Robert Tierney, chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The designation would preserve and protect the beautiful Gothic church and the exquisite stained-glass windows that were designed by the British-born artist and craftsman John E. Tarbox, who trained under famed stained-glass artist Christopher Whall.

It would also protect the Wyckoff-Snedicker Family Cemetery, which dates back to the late 1700s and contains the remains of Woodhaven’s earliest settlers. Close to 200 people are buried in the small Dutch cemetery, which has been ignored and subject to vandalism over the years.

Through the efforts of a few dedicated people with a love of history, the cemetery was restored in the mid-1990s, but in recent years the land has not been looked after at all and has been the subject of numerous residential complaints.

During a tour last year, the cemetery looked like a jungle, many gravestones had fallen and lay on their sides, there was garbage dumped on the grounds, and a huge portion of the fence had fallen and a gravestone had been laying in the rubble for quite some time.

How we treat our ancestors and those who came before us will herald the way we, or the things that matter to us, are treated in the years to come. Disrespect the past and we, in the future, shall be disrespected. This important topic will be the focus of the first meeting of the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society in 2013, which meets at 1 p.m. on the last Wednesday of the every month at Emanuel United Church of Christ, on 91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard.

Over the course of 2013, the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society will also host the following meetings:

• Nick Hirshon, author of “Images of America: Forest Hills” will discuss his book on February 27. The timing is perfect as his book hits bookstores that very week.

• Woodhaven’s Viktoria Sema Ballavoski, psychic and author of “Lilith’s Awakening,” will discuss her career on March 27 and three members of the society will be chosen at random for free readings.

• On April 24 we will be joined by a panel of three talented photographers who will display some of their favorite photographs and discuss their craft. Our guests will be the Queens Ledger’s Michael O’Kane, the Times Ledger’s Christina Santucci, and the Times Newsweekly’s Nick Biondo.

• On May 29, Eddie Costello’s Antique Trash or Treasure Roadshow makes a return visit to Woodhaven. All paid members will be guaranteed at least one appraisal, other attendees may get an appraisal if time allows.

• On June 26, the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society will hold their annual Penny Social, an auction where you purchase tickets for chances to win items. There are always interesting items at the Historical Society’s auction.

• After taking off for the months of July and August, the Historical Society returns on September 25 with “Swept by Ocean Breezes: A History of Coney Island” by Professor John Manbeck, Professor Emeritus at Kingsborough Community College.

• On October 30 we will present “The Roots of Doo-Wop and Rock 'n' Roll” by lecturer Robert L. Cohen. Make sure you stay after the presentation for a special show.

• And on November 20 we will be joined by artist Madeline Lovallo, who has painted many scenes in and around Woodhaven, Howard Beach and the Rockaways. Around these parts, Madeline is most famous for a beautiful portrait she did of Lewis’ of Woodhaven, which was sold in various stores as a Christmas card some years back.

• And the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society will wrap up the year with their annual Christmas Party at their December meeting. There’s still time to attend the 2012 Christmas Party, which will take place on Wednesday, December 19, at 1 p.m. All are invited.

Throughout the year, the organization also takes bus trips to many interesting and exciting places, all of them very suitable for seniors. Please contact us at if you are interested in more information about the trips, or any of our meetings. We also anticipate having a few evening events, keep your eye on this space for announcements.

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