St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church

439 East 238th Street

Originally established as the “Chapel of Advent” in 1897, this small parish’s first services were held in a rented storefront chapel on Webster Avenue and East 234th Street. Renamed in honor of its first vicar, Reverend Stephen Van Rensselaer, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church purchased its present site in 1899 and the cornerstone was laid the following year. The white clapboard building resembles a countryside church, set back from Vireo Avenue by a green lawn with mature trees. Reportedly, a botanist from the New York Botanical Garden discovered a new species of English Ivy on the grounds of the church in 1981, and named it “238th Street” Ivy or “Hedera helix 238th Street.” Inside the church, there is a marble altar and a three-paneled painting by the Reverend John Walsted, an Episcopal priest and accomplished iconographer whose works also hang in the Church of the Transfiguration and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The rectory, which was remodeled in 1947, is adjacent to a Victorian style parish house, where the church operates a thrift shop.