The Cornerstone of the S--P--C-- was laid on October 15, 1893, more than a century ago. It was a well-attended ceremony, reported on at greater length in Carol Haddad's history of the Scarborough Presbyterian Church. With great foresight, the chief donors of the church building had already hired a tireless student from Princeton Seminary to develop a Sunday School, so more than a hundred young people stood with the dedication party and neighbors from Scarborough, Ossining and Briarcliff Manor. Tragedy, however, lay behind the absence of Elliott F. Shepard, who had died of a now-treatable blood infection shortly before, during the design process. Thus his widow, Mrs. Margaret Louisa Vanderbilt Shepard, stood with her son, Elliott F. Shepard, Jr. who held the inscribed mason's trowel.
The man who then used the trowel, William Smith, an immigrant stone mason from Scotland, also became one of the founding members, along with a number of the construction team. Others, fresh from building Woodlea, the Shepards' home and now the Sleepy Hollow Country Club house, moved on to other projects of McKim, Mead and White. The architects of record for the church are Haydel and Shepard, a short-lived partnership of Stanford White's nephew, Haydel, and a nephew of Elliott Shepard. Their only other significant building, the Fabbri Mansion on Manhattan's 64th street, echoes the neo-classical style of both Woodlea and the Scarborough Church-- briefly called, "Shepard Memorial," but organized as Scarborough Presbyterian.
The dedication of the church 18 months later, May 14, 1895, was marked by a sermon from pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Ossining (then, Sing Sing, as in the prison), and affirmation by the Presbytery of Westchester (the regional association of congregations now called the Presbytery of Hudson River, including 7 counties North of New York City. A plaque in the sanctuary thanks a leading local Presbyterian, William Rogers, who helped the founding pastor, Frank Fenton Blessing, develop the Sunday School. Rogers was originally part of the Ossining Church, which itself originally stood in what is now the Sparta Cemetary next to the Scarborough Church manse on Revolutionary Road and Route 9. And yes, going way back, George Washington did pass through-- it was the Hessians working for the British who burnt that earlier Presbyterian Church for its revolutionary sympathies.
Significant in the early years of Scarborough was the continuing role played by Mrs. Shepard-- an early sexton would tell the children that the first line of the 23rd Psalm was, "The Lord is Mrs. Shepard." Certainly the Shepard family, represented on the Trustees of the church, contributed the Parish House building in 1908 and the manse (or parsonage) property in 1913, with other members serving as architect-builders. The third and longest serving pastor of the church, Anthony Peterson, memorialized her wonderfully when she died in 1923, long after she had moved back into New York City.
The church grew slowly from the 1920's to the 1940's, serving the relatively small population of the Sparta area of Ossining and Scarborough, which became simply a section of Briarcliff, rather than a village itself. The chief non-church institution was for a while the small private Scarborough School, run from the 40's to the early '70s by the Vanderlip family for their children and nearby inhabitants, with the pastor's children included. During World War II, Edmund Wylie, father of the novelist Philip Wylie, pastored the congregation, leaving his mark in the building of steps leading up to the chancel in the sanctuary, which make the staging of dramatic performances easier in the church.
In the postwar years the church and suburban area grew strongly, led by Robert Montgomery, who ran a notable adult education program called, a "school for skeptics," and Roger Huber, both progressive and psychological in bent, who carried through plans for the construction of an education building in 1959-60. This was fully funded by the members, and helped the church grow toward its mid-1960s peak of 474 members. Pastors Adam Craig and Robert Hare carried on the educational and activist traditions of the pastorate here, with the addition under Robert Hare of both a counseling center (Hudson Shores, run by Methodist minister, Jack Wortman), and a nursery school (originally Sleepy Hollow N.S.). Throughout the church held country-style outdoor celebrations which merged into rummage sales, among its popular activities. Pastoral and Lay leadership helped in the formation of a hospice program at the nearby Phelps Hospital in Sleepy Hollow (then, North Tarrytown), and in a non-profit housing program called the Interfaith Council for Action (IFCA), set up with others in the Ossining Ministerial Association.
During the term of the most recent pastor, Christian Iosso, (1993-2005) the church re-developed the nursery school (Scarborough Presbyterian Children's Center), strengthened membership, program and facilities generally, a developed several new projects. The Children's Center absorbed the space once used by Hudson Shores, which was itself reabsorbed into the FRMH, Foundation for Religion and Mental Health offerings in the area. In mission, along with various General Assembly-related activities and alternative investment (including $50,000 in the Ecumenical Development Cooperative Society, or Oikoucredit), the church brought in Bridges to Community, a Third World Mission/Education project directed by Presbyterian minister C. Carter Via, who started as Parish Associate in 1998 while Bridges was located in the First Congregational Church of Chappaqua. Bridges relocated to SPC property , located in a small house purchased by the Church on adjoining property in 1999. Bridges, having outgrown its available space, has moved onto new quarters.
In addition to its education and mission programs, the Church's music program grew, as organist Stanton Daugherty upgraded the pipe organ, the choir grew, and contemporary worship was developed on a limited scale. Thomas Cuffari, the subsequent music director, inaugurated a several concert series, building on the partly gift/purchase of a fine grand piano.
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