26 SEPTEMBER 24, 2020 RIDGEWOOD TIMES WWW.QNS.COM
OUR NEIGHBORHOOD: THE WAY IT WAS
Church born on the farm still thriving in modern-day Middle Village
BY THE OLD TIMER
These days, the only things resembling farms
near St. Margaret Church in Middle Village
are the many backyard vegetable gardens
that homeowners in the area are proud to grow
during the spring and summer.
But more than 150 years ago, when the church
was founded, Middle Village was a rural, 19th
century farming community built largely by
Catholic immigrants from Europe and Ireland.
When they settled in the area, they lacked a community
church to worship every Sunday — they
had to travel more than two miles each way, by
horse and buggy, to St. Mary’s Church in Winfield
(present-day Woodside) to pray.
The increasing population of Catholics in the
Middle Village area finally spurred the Diocese
of Brooklyn into action to help serve the faithful.
Then-Bishop Loughlin, leader of the diocese, requested
that Reverend Theodore Ignatius Goetz
of St. Mary’s to form a mission in Middle Village
and build a church.
In 1860, the diocese purchased two small parcels
of land from the Pullis and Carrhardt families
— both of whom had extensive farms in the
area — to create what would become St. Margaret
Church and School. The adjoining parcels of land
extended 300 feet along Pullis Avenue (presentday
79th Place) and 150 feet along Juniper Swamp
Road (present-day Juniper Valley Road).
Goetz broke ground on the new church on
March 18, 1860, with the cornerstone laid two
months later at a small ceremony that also
doubled as the dedication of the new church to
St. Margaret — patron saint of the farmer.
In the 160 years that followed, there have been
several iterations of St. Margaret Church, the
first of which was a frame building 25 feet wide
and 50 feet long, large enough to comfortably accommodate
the area’s 70 Catholic families. The
first rectory was a house on Pullis Avenue that
the parish rented from a local parishioner.
The early days of St. Margaret Church involved
a unique ministry for the priests assigned
The Civil War broke out in 1861, and the Union
imprisoned a number of Confederate rebels in
the basement of the nearby Middle Village Tavern,
which is presently the site of the C-Town
Supermarket on Metropolitan Avenue near 78th
Street. The rebels were kept in cells surrounded
by thick walls that were deemed escape-proof.
Priests of St. Margaret regularly visited the
prison to comfort those soldiers who fell ill and
administer the sacraments to them.
With Middle Village continuing to grow with
new families arriving, St. Margaret Church
realized the time had come to establish a parish
school. In 1865, the parish built a small, logframed
schoolhouse adjacent to the church. The
first St. Margaret School had but one classroom
to house 20 students.
Five years later, the Sisters of St. Dominic order
arrived at St. Margaret to run the school and
would educate young minds for many decades
Photo by Robert Pozarycki
From there, St. Margaret’s expansion continued.
In 1899, the parish built a brand new school
and parish hall — a three story building with two
bowling alleys in the basement and an entertainment
hall on the top floor.
By 1907, the parish had outgrown the size of its
original church. That led to the construction of
the second St. Margaret Church — a brick building
110 feet long and 40 feet wide, with a seating
capacity for nearly 300 people. The church on
79th Place — which stands today as St. Margaret
Parish Hall — features a central steeple with a
high cross that made it a town landmark.
But by 1932, the parish realized it needed not
just additional church space but also school
space; the parish school’s population had grown
to 480 students.
Three years later, in 1935, the church broke
ground on a new church-school complex at the
corner of present-day 80th Street and Juniper
Valley Road. They laid the cornerstone on June 23,
1935, and soon, the school opened to more than
In the years that followed, St. Margaret Church
built a new rectory and a convent, along 79th
Place. The church grew to become a central hub
of activity across Middle Village. By the time the
church reached its centennial in 1960, there were
2,800 families in the parish.
By 1971, St. Margaret undertook yet another
expansion project: the creation of a new parish
center. The cornerstone laid for the building on
May 14, 1972 was the same cornerstone used for