History of Our Lady of Lebanon
Construction on the church began in 1844 after a small group of individuals met early in that year and agreed to establish an ecclesiastical society that would become the Church of the Pilgrims. The group hired Richard Upjohn, a prominent architect well known for Gothic churches for Episcopal congregations, to design the church. In contrast to his Gothic-style work, Upjohn designed the first Romanesque Revival church in the United States, one which has been termed a medieval equivalent of a New England meetinghouse. The cornerstone was laid on December 22, which was the 224th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, 71 people assented to the articles of faith and were recognized as a Church of Christ. Construction continued through 1845 and the church held its first public services on May 12, 1846.
The church cost approximately $65,000, including $10,000 for the land, and exceeded the initial budget by about $13,000. Construction was hampered when it was determined that the timbers supporting the roof were inadequate. As a result, a truss bridge was added. Additionally, side galleries not included in the initial design were also built, which significantly increased the church’s seating capacity. In the 1850s, ten columns were added to further support the roof.
In 1869, construction commenced on an addition designed by Leopold Eidlitz who had once worked for Richard Upjohn. The addition provided an additional 450 seats in the church, a larger lecture room, and rooms for classes and meetings. Funds to cover the $128,000 project were raised in a mere three weeks.
The Reverend Richard S. Storrs, Jr. became the Church of the Pilgrims’ first pastor in 1847 and served the church until 1900. Storrs, a notable American clergymen, was born in 1821, helped found the Long Island Historical Society (now the Brooklyn Historical Society), and in 1883 served as Brooklyn’s keynote speaker at the dedication of the Brooklyn Bridge, which he called “a durable monument to Democracy itself.”
As the population of Brooklyn Heights changed in the early twentieth century, the number of members of the Church of the Pilgrims and neighboring Plymouth Church declined. Both congregations reassessed their positions within the community and, in 1934, the Church of the Pilgrims merged with Plymouth Church to form Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims.