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St. George’s church granted city landmark status

One Flushing religious institution has been landmarked by the city, and another - a synagogue just a few blocks south - could be listed in the National Registry of Historic Places in the coming months.

On Tuesday, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to award St. George's Episcopal Church at 38-02 Main St., along with the adjoining parish house and graveyard, landmark status.

"The spire of St. George's Church has been a landmark to everyone in Flushing for 150 years.," said Jennifer Raab, chairwoman of the Landmarks Commission. "We are thrilled today to make its status official."

In December, the Times/Ledger reported that St. George's might be landmarked this spring.

At the time, Kevin Cruze, who has been a member of the church for eight years and its warden for three, said the landmarking effort was initiated by Borough President Claire Shulman in 1997 but was stalled until 1999 because of staff changes at both the church and within the Landmarks Commission.

The current version of St. George's was erected around 1853 and is the third building to be built by the congregation on that site since 1746.

The church's Gothic Revival design features walls of randomly-laid granite rubble trimmed with red sandstone and stained-glass windows in wood tracery.

St. George's parish house was built in 1907 and designed to complement the church. The 30 or so headstones in the graveyard date back to the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission is the New York City agency responsible for designating 1,031 individual landmarks, 102 interior landmarks, nine scenic landmarks and 74 historic districts to date. Landmarking facilitates the designation of grant money to be made on future improvements.

As for the synagogue - the Free Synagogue of Flushing at 41-60 Kissena Blvd. - its rabbi, Dr. Bruce Cole, with the aid of state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing), is working to have the building listed in the state and federal registries of historic places.

In a Dec. 29 letter to enlist Stavisky's help, Cole wrote that the Free Synagogue was celebrating its 83rd anniversary this year and that being listed in the historic places registries would be "a marvelous addition to our celebration."

"I have been there countless times over a 30-year period and I believe it is worthy of such designation," Stavisky said.

The Free Synagogue, located about five blocks south of St. George's Episcopal Church, was founded in 1917 by the Hebrew Women's Aid Society. Cole said it is the oldest Reform congregation in Queens and has been in continuous existence on the same site longer than any other Jewish congregation on the North Shore.

The synagogue's sanctuary, completed in 1927, seats 660 and is based on the design for the Pantheon in Rome, Italy. It is covered by a huge dome supported on bracketed Corinthian pilasters. A stained-glass window lies in the dome's center and the room is lined with roughly 15 18-foot stained-glass windows, created by Viennese artisans and reflecting Jewish themes.

The synagogue also has its original, 1927 Mohler pipe organ.

"They don't make them like this anymore," said the Free Synagogue's administrator, Eileen Brajer, during a tour of the site.

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