St. Saviour’s could rise at Onderdonk

If the Juniper Park Civic Association gets its way, the Onderdonk House could host a historic Maspeth church.
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A deal to save a historic Maspeth building is on the table but far from done.

Officials from the Juniper Park Civic Association met with the Vander Ende-Onderdonk House in Ridgewood to discuss erecting St. Saviour’s Church on the house’s grounds and using it as event space.

But a representative from the Onderdonk House said despite published reports stating otherwise, a final agreement is not likely to come soon.

“It’s not a done deal by any means,” said Virgina Comber, director of the Onderdonk House. “We won’t be pushed into anything that is not appropriate for the grounds.”

Comber said Onderdonk representatives met with Juniper more than a month ago and still need to see a schematic plan before moving forward with the discussions.

“If the plans are not appropriate, we will not do it,” she said.

Bob Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, said he met with board members at the house because he believes rebuilding the church at Onderdonk would be a win-win for both sides.

“There’s a nice piece of land in the back where the church could sit up on a hill,” said Holden. “We don’t think it will conflict with the Dutch colonial house — plus, it would cover an old factory that’s currently visible from the grounds. We think it’s a perfect fit.”

Holden said he needs a model of his vision to show that the 1847 church would fit the grounds — a model that would cost close to $7,000.

The Onderdonk House currently raises a tent on the proposed site for weddings and other events. Holden said St. Saviour’s could provide space for such occasions, but in a historic setting with character.

“All summer long they have a large tent on the grounds for weddings and fund-raisers,” he said. “If the church was on the grounds, there would be no need for the tent. This could be truly beneficial for both sides.”

But besides the Onderdonk board’s reservations about the plan, there are some obstacles that could block the church’s move. The Onderdonk House sits on landmarked property and building anything on such land could prove difficult.

Holden said he would have to make a presentation to the city Landmarks Preservation Commission to show that St. Saviour’s would not alter Onderdonk’s historic land in an intrusive way.

“Nothing is easy here, but if we took no for an answer the church would never have been saved in the first place,” said Holden. “You’ve got to fight beyond the first no and beyond the first 10 nos.”

St. Saviour’s Church was built in 1847 in the Carpenter Gothic style by renowned architect Richard Upjohn, who also designed Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan. It is currently dismantled in storage containers at a Maspeth trucking company.

The Vander Ende-Onderdonk House was originally constructed in the mid-to-late-18th century by Dutch settlers.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Posted 10:21 am, June 14, 2012
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