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early churches of New Jersey
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Elberon Memorial Chapel
Elberon (Long Branch), Monmouth County
It was after dark when I photographed this fascinating church about eight years ago, which
is why there is very little in the shadows. It was built in 1886 as a memorial to New York merchant Moses Taylor, and paid for by his wife. When it was dedicated, a special train brought honored guests from New York. The Princeton Theological
Seminary had some involvement with supplying a minister, and I suspect
it was opened only during summer months in the years immediately after
its construction. The tower is Norman, and the twin transepts also seem to me to be drawn from the idiom of mid-nineteenth century Normandy/Brittany, which was a fashionable resort area at that time.
Some local historians claim it was designed by Charles McKim of the very important New York firm, McKim, Mead and White, but others dispute that. I was with the skeptics until a recent book documents McKim many connections with the Taylor family, stretching over a period of years. Moses gave McKim his first important commission, and he later designed at least three houses for the McKim sons. To me it is unthinkable that the family would have turned to another architect for this work. It is a masterful work.
McKim drew on Norman sources for many of his wooden houses during this period, and he frequently did work for friends "off the books," which is why it may not be documented in his oeuvre.