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Over 120 years of serving the people of God in Coney Island Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace History: Part 3 A New Pastor, A New Parish Campus, and a New Church

In 1925, Dr. Brophy’s dream of a magnificent permanent church building and parish complex was finally realized under the administration of Monsignor Areese. In 1919, both Our Lady of Solace School on West 19th Street and the new magnificent spired neo-Gothic three-story rectory on a man-made scenic hill along Mermaid Avenue opened their doors. In May of 1924, the last Mass to be celebrated in the original church took place. Masses were moved to the auditorium of the new school as the old former dance hall was demolished and a magnificent new church rose to take its place on the site located on the northwest corner of West 17th Street and Mermaid Avenue. The new Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace, designed by noted architect Robert J. Reiley, was constructed in a Spanish neo-Romanesque style that was exceedingly popular and successful among seaside parishes.he tablet-style stained glass windows were smaller than those in similar-sized churches to protect them from the ravages of high winds off the ocean.  A magnificent Spanish-style mosaic apse was constructed above the main sanctuary in the church. Titled “Holy Trinity Apse,” the colorful mosaic tiles depict symbols of the Holy Trinity as well as the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. The building’s brickwork, however, and much of the interior carefully followed Neapolitan design.  The floors were a highly polished terrazzo. Its overall design brought to the near cathedral-sized structure the prayerful intimacy of a small country church. The Stations of the Cross, hand-painted in fine oil paints with almost photographic renderings surrounded the church interior on its walls between its colorful leaded stained glass windows; they had hung in the original church from 1917 until its demolition in 1923.  

The church’s grand all-mechanical tracker organ, originally built in 1865 by Odell and rebuilt in 1884 by Hilborne Roosevelt for the Second Reformed Church of New Brunswick, New Jersey, was acquired from the Second Reformed in 1924, the year before the new church’s completion.  An entire parish campus was constructed that included a school and a convent that were completed in 1919 and still stand today. A great rectory built on a man-made hill occupied the space between the church and school.  Built at the corner of Mermaid Avenue and West 19th Street, the structure pre-dated the church by a six years. It was adjacent to the school and church sites; the church’s construction commenced in early 1924.

 Attached to the church building with its baptismal chapel in its base was an imposing 185-foot tower that could be seen from miles away. Its gargantuan Meneely-cast and controlled chimes consisting of massive fire bells were donated by the New York City Fire Department and the Tilyou family, owners of what became Coney Island’s greatest and last surviving of its original three great theme parks, “Steeplechase, the Funny Place.”










CONTINUE ON TO PART 4.

Dr, Brophy’s memorial plaque that had hung in the original church  until 1923. It was moved to the current church in 1925. The original 185-ft. bell tower at the end of the arcade. Its largest bell weighed 12,000 lbs. (6 tons). Our Lady of Solace School along West 19th Street. Gates are open to the path leading to the school auditorium, rectory service entrance, the convent,  and the church. As yet there is only one parking lot  at the north side of the school building. The 1884 Hilborne Roosevelt Organ.(removed 2013) For specifications, click here.