STOCKPORT — The Church of St. John the Evangelist in Stockport is in the process of being moved to a new location after more than 150 years.
Located at 107 county Route 25, the church is the oldest Episcopal church in Columbia County and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
“The church was sold to a private company about 6 or 8 months ago,” Stockport Town Supervisor Matt Murell said Wednesday. “I’ve been told they want to take the church down and reassemble it in another location.”
Neither an owner nor a buyer was listed on the church’s Columbia County property record.
It was not immediately known where the church will be reassembled. The town of Stockport is not involved in the project, Murell said.
“For whatever reason [the buyer] wanted to buy the building, but not the land,” said Murell, who is also the chairman of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors.
The church’s former recreation center, which sits on the 9.9-acre property, is staying put. The building is the new home of American Legion Post No. 184 in Stockton, which Murell said is an ideal site for the local organization.
“It [the church] wasn’t being utilized,” Murell said. “It’s a shame that it’s going to be taken down and moved — it was a landmark in the town of Stockport.”
Murell said he doesn’t think anything will be built on the property after the church is disassembled and taken away.
A large contributor to the church’s decline was the dwindling congregation, which resulted in a lack of maintenance and years of wear-and-tear, said Jim Benson, the Columbia County Historical Society’s senior library researcher.
“It’s a wooden church, so that has inherent problems, which is much more difficult to maintain than brick or concrete,” he said Wednesday. “Churches are not like homes — they’re not built the same way. Barns are similar to churches because they’re used for a specific purpose.”
The church was featured in several books, including “A Visible Heritage” by Ruth Piwonka and Roderic Blackburn as well as “Wooden Churches: A Columbia County Legacy,” a portfolio of photographs by Arthur A. Baker, said Lori Yarotsky, the historical society’s executive director.
“Translated to wood from the design of an earlier stone church found in Stockport, England, the St. John’s Evangelist Church is a distinguished example of Gothic Revival architecture,” Yarotsky said. “In the 19th century, Episcopal churches in Columbia County were rare, and this is among the earliest Episcopal churches in the county.”
Joan Yannacone, of Kinderhook, has lived in Stockport for 17 years and was a member of the church when it closed its doors in 2014.
“The Episcopal Diocese of Albany decided to sell it because of very low attendance,” she said. “About 15 years ago, it was thriving — about 75 families were attending.”
Yannacone said the church was sold to a salvage company, which is supposed to be preserving everything from the church so it can be rebuilt, Yannacone said, but added she has no idea if or where it will be rebuilt.
“My concern is about the beautiful stained glass windows — if they just get sold off,” Yannacone said. “It all just really upsets me.”
To reach reporter Anthony Fiducia, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2309 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.