When Dr. D. Preston Wysong moved from Manhasset to Port Washington in 1891 to become the community’s first physician, the family missed the Sunday School at Christ Church for their boys. So that fall, his wife, Rebecca, started Sunday School classes in their Carlton Avenue home. Several children from the neighborhood joined the Wysong children for Bible stories and hymn singing.
Within a year, several mothers of the Sunday School organized as a Women’s Guild, and Rebecca Wysong’s brother, the Rev. Charles L. Newbold, came over from Manhasset to baptize some of the children and to conduct services.
In 1896, the Women’s Guild bought a lot on the corner of Jackson and Covert Streets and built a small wooden chapel; the first service at “Christ Church Mission Chapel” was held on August 9, 1896. The following year, Frances DuPuy of Philadelphia gave the chapel a reed organ that had belonged to her late brother, B. Stephen DuPuy; as a result, the congregation voted to rename itself “St. Stephen’s Chapel.” Miss DuPuy later gave other gifts to the chapel, including an alms basin that is still in use.
In 1905, St. Stephen’s was incorporated as a parish and called the Rev. William Nies as our first Rector. In the same year, the parish bought the current plot of land on Carlton Avenue and moved the building to that land. The first service on the new site was held on Christmas Eve, 1905.
In 1908, the present stone building was started. It was about half as long as it now is, with a large window at each end of the building, and the entrance on the south side near the rear. It was dedicated in 1910 and consecrated in 1916. The window at the east end was replaced by the St. Stephen window in 1922, and the current altar was installed in 1934; both were donated by the same person.
In 1926, the old chapel building was demolished; it was replaced by the current Parish Hall, which was dedicated in 1927. In 1955, the church was expanded to its present size, with a chapel underneath. The Parish Hall was also expanded in 1962.
St. Stephen’s has a long tradition of working with other religious organizations to meet the spiritual and physical needs of our community. As early as 1930, we held joint Easter sunrise services with the Lutherans, Methodists and Baptists. Since the 1940s, we have participated in the ecumenical Thanksgiving Eve services. We have joined with other local clergy in the annual Blessing of the Fleet (which was started by our own Dr. Woon). We have partnered with the two Roman Catholic parishes and the Lutheran congregation to help people who suffered material losses from fires and storms. We have offered our facilities to other religious groups when they needed space during rebuilding programs.
We have also worked outside our own community with programs as diverse as resettlement of Vietnamese refugees, development of microloans for Ugandan women, and working to ensure fair treatment of international seafarers.
A History Note
Phillip Brooks was a prominent Episcopal rector in the late 1800s. and later became the Bishop of Massachusetts. He was best known then as a preacher, but today is perhaps best remembered as the author of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
Bishop Brooks had a small connection with St. Stephen’s. The Rev. Walter Bentley was our first English-born Rector serving from 1920 to 1925. He had been a Shakespearean actor on tour in the US when he heard Phillips Brooks preach, and that inspired him to become a priest. While at St. Stephen’s, Bentley produced and starred in two Shakespeare plays at the high school (now the Landmark on Main Street) auditorium to raise money for our new Parish Hall.
For more of our history, come to the church or visit our History Facebook page here