St. Augustine Presbyterian Church was founded in 1938 by the Rev. Edler Garnet Hawkins. During the 1940s and 1950s, the congregation grew to more than a thousand members, which included mostly African-Americans and Puerto Ricans. In 1964, Rev. Hawkins was elected the first African-American moderator of the United Presbyterian Church, and served St. Augustine until his death in 1977. The brick neo-Gothic building was constructed in 1906 for the Woodstock Presbyterian Church; that congregation merged into the Home Street Presbyterian Church in 1938.
This theatre organ was built in 1931 by the Austin Organ Company for station WHK of the Radio Air Service Corp. in Cleveland, Ohio. Austin's Op. 1778 was known as a "unified" (theatre) model, and it included a three-manual Art Deco console and an automatic player. The organ cost $16,500. In 1950, the organ was donated to the Bethel Home of the World Headquarters of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Brooklyn, where it was installed in new building addition then underway. The organ was used there until about 1960, at which time the organ was in need of major repairs. The Witnesses decided that pipe organs did not fit into their religious profile and, in 1961, the organ was sold and moved to St. Augustine Presbyterian Church in The Bronx.
Charles Scharpeger recorded the following specifications for Louis F. Mohr & Co., on two occasions: once in February 1962, and the following on January 7, 1963. Pipecounts are suggested, based on typical specifications by Austin of that time.
As of 2009, the organ is unplayable as the console appears to be disconnected and the pedalboard has been detached and placed in a corner. The pipework in the chambers is in good shape, but the unenclosed Tibia (centered under the window) is in bad condition.We received the most recent update for this note from Jeff Scofield on November 10, 2020.
Church interior: Photograph by David Schmauch via the NYC AGO NYC Organ Project, submitted by Jeff Scofield. Taken on 2011-08-21
Console: Photograph by David Schmauch via the NYC AGO NYC Organ Project, submitted by Jeff Scofield. Taken on 2011-08-21
Nameplates: Photograph by David Schmauch via the NYC AGO NYC Organ Project, submitted by Jeff Scofield. Taken on 2011-08-21