Part One: One of the Most Beautiful Churches in
New York City
Regarded by many architectural historians as one of the most beautiful churches in New York City, the Gothic-revival structure that is home to the Park Avenue Christian Church was erected in 1909-11 by the Old South Dutch Reformed Church, a congregation that dated back to 1628, soon after the settlement of Manhattan. The Old South Church, under financial stress, sold the building in 1914 to the First Union Presbyterian Church (later the Park Avenue Presbyterian Church), which later merged with the Brick Presbyterian Church. Central Church of Disciples of Christ, a historic congregation dating from 1810 which was located on West 81st Street, purchased the Park Avenue building in 1945.
Paris’ La Sainte-Chapelle (left) was the inspiration for New York’s Park Avenue Christian Church, shown (right) in 1911.
The principal designer of the building was Bertram Goodhue of the architectural firm of Cram, Goodhue, and Ferguson, designers of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and St. Thomas Episcopal Church. Inspired by La Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, the building features extensive windows in the clerestory and a soaring fleche (spire) that rises 70 feet above the exterior ridge. The materials and workmen for the fleche were brought over from England to ensure that it would resist the weather here.
The church was built in authentic Gothic style – the walls are of buttressed stone without steel support. The church is one of a handful of public buildings – most notably St. Paul’s Chapel (lower Manhattan, 1766) and the Church of the Intercession (Washington Heights, 1912) – built with local Manhattan schist. The stone came from the excavation of Central Park and, during the restoration of 1992-94, from construction at the Bronx Zoo.
Some of the finest artisans of the day contributed their talents; the building boasts stained glass windows by Louis Comfort Tiffany and decorative ironwork by Samuel Yellin.
In future installments of this six-part series, we take you inside the sanctuary, and show you in detail many of the striking architectural features of The Park.
Part Two: The East Portal, and the Ironwork
Please forward this email and invite friends to join us for A Walk in The Park. Anyone can sign up to receive the series by clicking here and selecting “Reflections.”