Monday, October 27, 2008

First Day in the New St Anastasia's Church

Teaneck, by 1930, had quadrupled its population to 16,513 residents. Route 4 and the subsequent opening of the George Washington Bridge in October 1931 brought home-seekers to Teaneck and made it the fastest growing community in the state at the time. The parish’s spaces were so strained and attendance at Sunday Mass had increased so much that a new church became essential for the parish. Planning for the new church showed anticipation of future parish needs with an architectural drawing of an auditorium planned for a school.

St. Anastasia became an independent, rather than a mission parish in 1931. The church was built and dedicated in 1932. The finished building housed its first Mass on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1932. The brick-faced and steel-framed building is in the style of Late Romanesque Revival and is listed in the Teaneck Historic Sites Survey. It had a seating capacity of 500 in the upper church. There was a large basement finished as an auditorium to serve all parish activities.

Inside the church, a 20 foot high wooden altar crowned with spires was the center of the sanctuary, separating the congregation from the altar with a marble-surfaced railing. The left altar was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin; the right altar was to St. Joseph. The windows were simple leaded glass, to be replaced in the 1970’s by faceted glass. Confessionals were in the back of the church on either side of the entrance. Seating for the priest and altar boys during Mass was on the Epistle (right) side of the sanctuary. The choir loft was located in the rear of the church, and housed the choir until August 2008. Then, the choir moved to the front of the church. The baptismal font was located in the sacristy to the right of the sanctuary. The cost of the building was approximately $100,000, which was partially covered by compensation received from the state when it exercised its right of eminent domain, taking over a strip on the south side of the parish property in the late 1920’s for the construction of Route 4.

On the day of the first use of the church, Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1932, Fr. O’Neill described the plans for the first Mass in the new church:
“On this day we will have the Formal Opening of our new church [November 24, 1932] with solemn High Mass at 9 followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Musical concert ½ hour before Mass. Only adults [are to be]admitted at this Mass. At 10:30, the Children’s Mass to which both adults and children are admitted. For this solemn Mass at 9 AM, the Men of the Parish particularly the Holy Name men will assemble in the old Church Hall at 6:45 and march in a body with altar boys to the new church to occupy the pews reserved for them.”

The Annual Bazaar took place the following week, with profits aimed at reducing the building debt.

The original building, the chapel, was converted to part of the school in the early 1930s and held the library and offices. On weekends the school was used for education of children of the parish who attended public school, as remembered by a parishioner:
“We went to catechism in the little old St. Anastasia Church on Sunday afternoons the nuns had classes. In those days all businesses were open on Saturday and my father was open a half day on Sunday.” Eva Lebeck.
St. Anastasia's R. C. Church, Teaneck, N. J.Published by S. K. Simon, 114 Wooster St., New York.From the Local History Collection, Teaneck Public Library, Teaneck,NJ
.Used with permission.

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