St. George’s-by-the-River Episcopal Church Rumson NJ
Dec 10, 2018

St. George’s-by-the-River Episcopal Church

By Lori Draz

St. George’s-by-the-River Episcopal Church Rumson NJ

In a town with as much stunning architecture as Rumson, St. George’s-by-the-River Episcopal Church stands out for its majestic beauty and its friendly, welcoming congregation.

This “Early English Gothic of the perpendicular style” building was completed in 1908 as a gift of Mrs. William Everard Strong in memory of her husband. Mrs. Strong commissioned the architects to copy the style and substance of the Everard family church, St. Mary and St. Lawrence in the English in the shire of Essex. Those who have visited the original remark at the similarities. It’s actually named after St. George, the patron saint of England.

St.-George’s-by-the-River was pre-dated by St. George’s-on-the-Hill, which was located the corner of Ridge Road and Bellevue Avenue. At that time, the church was fairly isolated as there was much estate grounds surrounding the areas, so the parish built St. George’s-by-the River at its current site to be closer to the popular resort, Sea Bright. The original St. George’s-on-the-Hill is now the dining room of Rumson Country Day School.

When visitors arrive, they immediately see two of the church’s treasures. The Celtic cross that once sat atop the roof of St. George’s-on-the-Hill now sits atop the old Cornerstone dated 1874.

Looking at the church, to the left are the rectory and offices. Ahead are the Cloisters and school classrooms, and the church is to the right. If you walk along the path toward the Cloisters, be sure to look up to the right of the bell tower to spot the vigilant female gargoyle who watches over this parish from her lofty location.

At the main entrance, a plaque commemorates the 2007 listing of the church building in the National and State Registers of Historic Places. Another plaque states that the Carillon in the bell tower was donated by Bertram H. Borden in memory of his wife, Mary Owen Borden.

Mr. Borden also gave the Cloisters and classrooms, the Chantry and Resurrection Chapel, and the beautiful wood paneling that decorates the Ambulatory, Vestry Room, Organ Screen and Sacristy. His generosity to his church and this community was boundless.

Look up to see two intricate stained glass windows portraying Saint Bernard and Saint Francis. As you enter the nave, the baptismal font is to the right, placed at the entrance to signify entry into the church through baptism.

Above the font is the Saint George and the Dragon window created in 1908 by the firm of J & R Lamb of New York. In an article about the consecration of St. George’s, the New York Times said that this “window is an unusual example of cathedral glass. It combines the best quality of the old work with the freshness of modern treatment.”

The sturdy, ornamentally carved pews are numbered, a reminder of the time when families paid rent for their pews. You will also notice that the number 13 has been omitted.

The Bible rests on the eagle-shaped brass lectern, another remnant of the original St. George’s-on-the-Hill.

Directly ahead is the magnificent Adams stained glass window, which is called “Seek Truth.” The window was commissioned by Edward Dean Adams, a financier who worked with Thomas Alva Edison to make electricity commercially successful.

The central object in the church is the impressive high altar. The marble altar and ornamental reredos were made in Italy as a special commission for St. George’s-by-the-River. They are nearly identical to those in the Great Waltham Church in England.

The Strong family contributed most of the items used in the various services. Mrs. Alice Corbin Strong gave the cross and candle sticks that stand on the altar. Some of the patens, chalices and plates used regularly at services are from the original St. George’s-on-the-Hill. Other appointments and flower containers were given by friends of the Strongs and fellow members of the 1908 congregation.

As the parish grew, the main sanctuary could not accommodate all the families wishing to worship, so Bertram Borden donated the Chantry in memory of his wife. The expansion provided 100 additional seats.

The stained glass window closest to the Chantry altar was moved from the original St. George’s-on-the-Hill. It was donated by Mr. and Mrs. William E. Strong in memory of their only son, Francis Lee Strong, who died as a teenager. The depiction of Christ and the father of a sick son with the banner that reads, “Jesus Saieth Unto Him, thy son liveth” is a touching reminder of the grief-stricken couple’s sorrow.

The entrance hall at the south end of the Chantry Aisle is an area where many a nervous bride has waited to walk down the aisle. This was once a covered porch used by horses and carriages.

Though rich in history, the parish is a vibrant community, known for its annual Canterbury Fair in early June and the juried Canterbury Art Show on Labor Day weekends. The congregation also has pet-friendly services, bible studies and other spiritual events.

St. George’s-by-the-River is located at 7 Lincoln Ave. in Rumson. Visit stgeorgesrumson.org or call 732-842-0596.