In 1851, a small white frame building was used by the fledgling congregation.
Designed by Jeremiah O’Rourke — architect of the Seton Hall University Chapel (1863) and Presidents Hall (1866, originally the seminary) — this Gothic Revival church was constructed with local brownstone.
O’Rourke’s design for St. John’s is a Victorian adaptation of German Gothic architectonics. The church proper exhibits what noted American architect Ralph Adams Cram often referred to as “Cookie-Cutter-Gothic.” Precious little of its decorative elements are the result of scholarly research of period Gothic architecture. Rather, it is a collection of decorative elements that were taken from Victorian pattern books. However, the spire of the tower, completed in 1881, exhibits a more serious study of Gothic design principles. Like many other 19th century houses of worship in the Orange Valley, locally quarried brownstone was used to face the church’s exterior. In the case of St. John’s, philanthropist and real estate speculator Llewellyn S. Haskell donated the stone. Today, Haskell is credited with developing the first “gated community” in the United States, Llewellyn Park. Located a short distance form the church, the historic community ialso is famous as the home of Thomas Alva Edison.
Ground was broken in 1868, but it was not until 1881 that its elaborate spire, copied from the spire of the cathedral of Senlis, France, with protruding gargoyles and statues of the four evangelists, was added. The spire is unique as is the sanctuary floor with its magnificent floral-patterned parquetry.
The centerpiece of the interior is the oak reredos of the high altar created by the Goquers Studio of Louvain, Belgium, in 1892. The sanctuary once contained other fine examples of woodwork that have been lost over time in careless renovations.
The original windows by August Doremus were removed in 1931. What remains of these fine works of art are the facade windows. The nave windows are by the Franz Zettler Studio of Munich, while the windows above the altar are from the von Gerichten Studio, also of Munich.
Thomas Edison personally oversaw the installation of the church’s first electric lighting. On several occasions, world fmaous Metropolitan Opera stars Enrico Caruso and Geraldine Ferrar were guest soloists at the church. The first person baptized in the church was Orange resident George Huntington Hartford, founder of the A&P grocery chain.
The building of the church incurred an enormous debt that almost bankrupted the diocese of Newark.
About The Building
- Jeremiah O'Rourke
- Gothic Revival
- 1880s - Paintings by Lamprecht of Munich of the Overbeck School
Fabricator(s) of Windows
- 1868 -August Doremus - few in entry area remain
- 1923 - Gerichten Art Glass of Munich - Above Main Altar
- 1931 - Zettler of Munich - Nave Windows
- 1881 - Chimes of 11 bells, 3 from the Paris Exhibition of 1878, 8 by McShane & Co., Baltimore MD
Notable Works of Art
- Oak reredos, carved by the Goquers Brothers of Louvain, Belgium. The reredos depict the Last Supper, Apostles, and angels in high relief
- 1915 - E. Howard Clock Co. - Tower clock of 4 bronze and glass dials, each 6 feet in diameter
- 1879 - Organ by hook and Hastings of Boston MA Two stops, 500 pipes Cost $7,000
- The sanctuary floor is enriched with inlaid vines and leaves.
- 1881, added spire.
- 1892, installed reredos.
Current Status: In use
Year Opened: 1869