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Orange – St. John’s

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

Architectural Style

  • Gothic Revival

Interior Designer(s)

  • 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

Interior Pictures

Exterior Pictures

Year Opened: 1869


  1. John Renczkowski
    John Renczkowski January 26, 2024

    I have submitted this just for clarification to your article regarding the word, reredos. Use it if you like. These are little known architectural terms that don’t mean much to most folks. However, I like to clarify in historical descriptions when I can.

    The term reredos is sometimes confused with the term retable. While a reredos generally forms or covers the wall behind an altar, a retable is placed either on the altar or immediately behind and attached to the altar. “Many altars have both a reredos and a retable. But this distinction may not always be observed. The retable may have become part of the reredos when an altar was moved away from the wall. For altars that are against the wall, the retable often sits on top of the altar, at the back, particularly when there is no reredos.

  2. John Igoe
    John Igoe January 12, 2015

    The description of the pipe organ is incorrect. There are 43 stops and well over 3000 pipes. The instrument has been cited by the Organ Historical Society. It remains nearly unchanged since 1879 .

  3. Robert Wister
    Robert Wister March 24, 2014

    Contact St. John’s church. They still administer the cemetery.

  4. Betty Ann Flynn Ciucevich
    Betty Ann Flynn Ciucevich March 24, 2014

    Is this the church associated with St John’s Cemetery? If so, who shall I contact to receive information on marriage and funeral information on my great grandfather, John Flynn and his relatives?

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