By Carter B. Horsley
This superb and remarkable book is an greatly
expanded version of "Glory in Gotham," a book published
by David W. Dunlap in 2000 (see The City
That is an understatement.
This is an indispensable addition to the architectural
literature about New York City and takes it place with Elliot
Willensky and Norval White's "The A.I.A. Guide to New York
City" (see The City Review article)
and the massive volumes put together by Robert A. M. Stern as
monumental contributions to research on the city.
Mr. Dunlap is a fine reporter for The New
York Times who covers architecture and real estate news and
this book is fascinating and well-written. He is also the author
of another fine book, "On Broadway" (Rizzoli, 1990),
a large-format hard-cover book. The only criticism one can offer
of "From Abysinnian to Zion" is that it is not a large-format
hard-cover book so that its photographs could be larger since
they are quite miniscule as can be seen from those reproduced
in this article.
The following are some representative entries,
quoted in full:
New York Buddhist Church. No work of religious art in New York
faced as fearsome a journey to its present setting than the 15-foot-bronze
sttaue of Shinran Shonin, founder in the thirteenth century of
the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism. For it survived the atomic
bombing of Hiroshima. Clad in a robe and sandals, wearing a broad-brimmed
amigasa, and holding a staff, the figure was installed
on Mitaki Hill in 1937 by the businessman Seiichi Hirose. At 8:15AM,
August 6, 1945, when the bomb exploded a mile and a half away
and everything around it was consumed in flames, the statue -
though pocked and blistered - endured. Hirose brought it to the
United States 10 years later in the spirt of 'no more Hiroshimas'
and rededicated it on September 11, 1955. The New York Buddhist
Church was founded in 1938 by the Rev. Hozen Seki and his wife,
Satomi, and is affiliated with the Jodo Shinsu Hongwanjii in Kyoto.
The American Buddhist Study Center occupies a 1902 town house
at 331 Riverside Drive. The sanctuary, at 332 riverside Drive...,
was designed in 1955 by Kelly & Gruzen. The church holds an
Obon festival in Riverside Park every July and a peace gathering
every August 5, during which a bell is tolled at 7:15PM, that
is 8:15AM, August 6, in Japan.
Ephesus Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Harlem's skyline landmark is the slender steeple,
at 101 West 123rd street..., of Ephesus Seventh-Day Adventist
Church. This is a cultural landmark, too, as the birthplace in
1968 of the Boys Choir of Harlem. The roots of this sanctuary
are common with those of the Elmendorf Reformed Church. Both emerged
from the Harlem Reformed Dutch Church, which separated along economic
and geographic lines in 1887, when this building was constructed
as the Second Collegiate Church of Harlem, to serve the wealthier
families living in western Harlem. John Rochester Thomas the architect.
A bell cast in Amsterdam in 1734 for the original Harlem church
was brought here. After the Reformed congregation moved downtown
in 1929 to become the East Eighty-ninth Street Reformed Church
- taking the bell with them - this building was leased and then
bought in 1939 by an Adventist congregation formed by the merger
of two older black groups. Fire destroyed the interior in 1969
and forced the removed of the upper 20 feet of the spire. It is
to be restored through the help of the Upper Manhattan Historic
Church of the Crucifixion.
Corbusier comes to Harlem? Well, no, but the Episcopal Church
of the Crucifixion at 459 West 149th Street...., by Costa Machlouzarides,
is as close as anything in Manhattan to Ronchamp. It's terrifically
dynamic. Four inclined conical concrete sections - altar, baptistery,
chapel, and shrine - converge under an airfoil-shaped roof. Originally
on this site....was the Hamilton Grange Reformed Church of 1906
by Bannister & Schnell. After that congregation merged with
the Fort Washington Collegiate Church in 1937, the building was
taken over by Crucifixion, an African-American and Afro-Carribean
Episcopal group founded in 1916 by the Rev. Jedediah Edmead of
St. Kitts. His three successors, including the Rev. A. Eric Joseph
of Dominica-Antigua, all have come from the Caribbean. The old
church burned in 1963 and was replaced in 1967.
St. Luke's Lutheran Church. Can Gothic and Deco marry and find
happiness? They can, as this sanctuary at 308 West 46th Street...on
Restaurant Row attests. Founded in 1850, St. Luke's Lutheran Church
moved in 1879 to 233 West 42nd Street..., the former Forty-second
Street Presbyterian Church. The present sanctuary, by Tilton &
Githens, was completed in 19233. the nave facade is virtually
all window, designed by F. X. Zettler.
St. James Presbyterian Church.
It is a splendid Gothic tableau: in the foreground, the ornate
tower of St. James Presbyterian Church, a bit of Neuschwanstein
fantasy: high on the hill beyond, over the treetops of St. Nicholas
Park, the spires of City College. St. James is as important an
institution historically as it is a commanding presence architecturally,
descended from one of the earliest black congregations in New
York. It was founded in 1895 at the Odd Fellows Hall onWest 32nd
Street by members of the former Shiloh Presbyterian Church. St.
James moved to 211 West 32nd street but was displaced by Pennylvania
Station. In 1903, it took over the West Fifty-first Street Presbyterian
Church, at 359 West 51st Street...Then it moved to Harlem at 59
West 137th Street..., dedicated in 1915. This is now Rendall Memorial
Presbyterian Church. St. James moved to its present home, 409
West 141st Street..., in 1927. Designed by Ludlow & Valentine,
it was built in 1904/1905 as the Lenox Presbyterian Church, which
had been at 310 West 139th Street....The Lenox congregation changed
its name to St. Nicholas Avenue Presbyterian and merged in 1927
into North Presbyterian Church. During St. James's first decades
on West 141st street, it was led by the Rev. William Lloyd Imes,
whom the Rev.Adam Clayton Powell Jr., described as having 'the
mind of a scholar, the soul of a saint, the heart of a brother,
the tongue of a prophet, and the hand of a militant.' Dorothh
Maynor, the wife of the pastor, The Rev. Shelby Rooks, was an
operatic soprano who was bared from a career in opera because
of her race, though she was a famous recitalist. In 1964, she
founded the Harlem School of the Arts in the basement of St. James,
teaching piano to a dozen children. The school is now housed in
a building north of the church, by Ulrich Fanzen & Associates,
attended by 3,000 children and adults annually.
Church of Our Lady of the Rosary. Overlooking Battery Park are the Church
of Our Lady of the Rosary and the James Watson House of 1793 at
7 State Street..., now the Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton,
founder of the Sisters of Charity and the first native-born American
to be canonized. As a young woman, Seton belonged to Trinity Church
and lived on this site (though not in this house) from 1801 to
1803. In Italy, where she and her husband had gone in hope of
reviving his health, she became immersed in Catholicism and, on
her return, converted at St.Peter's Church on Barclay Street before
moving to Maryland. In 1883, the Watson mansion was turned into
the Mission of Our Lady of the Rosary for the care and relief
of Irish immigrant girls. It is now the shrine and rectory for
the 1964 church, by Shanley & Sturges, which has a figure
of Seton over the entance. After Trinity was shut down on September
11, 2001, the Rev. Peter K. Meehan offered Our Lady of the Rosary
as a place of worship for the Episcopal parish, reuniting Seton
and Trinity at least temporarily. In the first service on September
16, the Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard, vicar of Trinity, allowed
himself the gentle humor of noting 'She was our daughter before
she was their mother.' Worshipers laughed, some pershaps
for the first time since the attack.
Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church. With a tower almost out of Neuschwanstein Castle,
and a church house by James Gamble Rogers that overshadows the
tower, the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, at 921 Madison
Avenue..., cuts a high profile. So have its members, starting
with James Lenox - as in Lenox Hill - who gave the site on which
the present church stands. The Manhattan Island church was organized
in 1834 and called the Church in the Swamp (not to be confused
with the Swamp Church on Frankfort Stret). It united with the
Memorial Presbyterian Church, formerly the Eleventh Presbyterian
Church. In 1872, Memorial built a Gothic sanctuary at 506 Madison
Avenue..., designed by D. & J. Jardine, and changed its name
again, to Madison Avenue Presbyterian. Meanwhile, the Fifteenth
Street Church,organized in 1844, moved to the Lenox site on Madison
Avenue ...and renamed itself Phillips Presbyterian in honor of
the Rev. William Wirt Phillips, a towering figure in Presbyterianism.
Its Victorian Gothic sanctuary by R. H. Robertston was built in
1873. In 1899, Phillips and Madison Avenue decided to merge. The
new body would take the name Madison Avenue but occupy the home
of Phillips, preserving part of the older structure on the side
street for meetings, offices, and choir rehearsals. This annex
still stands, visibly distinct, as the Phillips Chapel. The present
sanctuary was designed by James E. Ware & Son and built in
1899. Adams & Woodbridge altered the facade in what one pastor
later called the St. Philco style. Leading figures associated
with Madison Avenue Presbyterian, many of them Yale graduates,
including the Rev. Henry Sloane Coffin, Edward S. Harkness, and
Henry R. Luce. During a 1998 renovation, the architect Page Ayres
Cowley discovered oak triforium screens hidden by plywood panels.
They were beautifully restored.
Church of St. Thomas the Apostle.
Rising over the tough edges of St. Nicholas Avenue like a fantastic
lace scrim, the Roman Catholic Church of St. Thomas the Apostle,
at 262 West 118th Street..., is even more awesome inside, with
windows by Mayer of Munich that form virtual walls of color, interspersed
with elaborate Stations of the Cross, under a spidery fan-vaulted
ceiling almost worthy of Kings College Chapel at Cambridge [England].
The parish was founded in 1889. In 1904, Thomas H. Poole &
Company filed plans for the upper church, dedicated in 1907. St.
Thomas evolved into a mission church as the black population of
Harlem grew. Harry Belafonte's family belonged; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
was said to have been baptized in the church; and Hulan E. Jack,
the first black borough president of Manhattan, was buried from
here. St. Thomas was rescued from extinction in 1979 by the Salesians
of Don Bosco, but they withdrew in June 2003. Two months later,
the church was padlocked without warning, leaving parishioners
St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral. Commenced, as the cornerstone says, in the reigh of
the MOST PIOUS AUTOCRAT AND GREAT EMPEROR NICHOLAS ALEXANDROVIcH
OF ALL RUSSIAS, the cathedral at 15 East 97th Street...was built
in 1901-1902 and dedicated to Sst. Nicholas the Wonder-worker.
The Muscovite Baroque design by John Bergesen - especially the
five great onion domes - inspires wonder to this day. The dramatic
story of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral lives up to the
setting. The Rev. Alexander Hotovitzky of Ukraine came to the
fledgling St. Ncholas parish in 1895. To raise money for a new
church, he traveled to Russia in 1900. Czar Nicholar II gave the
first 5,000 rubles toward construction. The cornerstone was laid
in the presence of the crew from the battleship Retvizan,
then under construction in a Phildelaphia shipyard for the Russian
navy. The cross from the ship's chapel was brought to St. Nicholas
after the Retvizan was sunk in 1904, during the Russo-Japanese
war. St. Nicholas was elevated to a cathedral in 1905 when the
seat of the vast American diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church
was transferred from California to New York. The chaos in Russia
after the 1917 Revolution echoed profoundly on East 97th Street.
In 1923, the Rev. John Svva Kedrovsky was appointed in Moscow
by the Soviet-controlled Living Church as the American Metropolitan,
or archbishop, displacing Metropolitan Platon. But church leaders
here refused to recognize Kedrovsky, on the grounds that he was
essentially a Bolshevik agent. The battle for 'the crook and mitre
of St.Nicholas Cathedral,' as the New York Times put it,
involved 'raids, riots, court injunctions and the wielding of
axes against the church doors.' A state court awarded the caethral
to Kedrovsky in 1925, but he still needed police assistance to
claim it. Meanwhile, the followers of Platon declared themselves
autonomous from the church in Russia, reaffirmed Platon as their
leader, and, in 1927, established St. Mary's Russian Orthodox
Cathedral in St.Augustine's Chapel on East Houston Street. The
struggle over St. Nicholas continued for another quarter century.
It eventually turned on the question of whether New York State
had the constitutional authority to require, as it did in 1945,
that Russian Orthodox churches generally - and thus St. Nicohlas
specifically - be administered by the American separatist movement
rather than the Moscow Patriachate, which had by then been recognized
by the Soviet government and was therefore suspect in the eyes
of many. In 1952, the Superme court overturned the New York law,
guaranteeing control of St. Nicholas by the Moscow Partiarchate.
'Under our constitution,' Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote, ' it
is not open to the governments of this Union to reinforce the
loyality of their citizens by deciding who is the true exponent
of their religion.'
Trinity Baptist Church.
Could this be a church? Your eye is caught by a stepped facade
in graduated colors of brick, from loamy brown to bright marigold.
You are transported momentarily to Stockholm. The Scandinavian
sensibility continues within: blond woods, bottle-blue glass,
bold geometry, and expressionistic ornament. If you arrived thinking
that Art Deco exhuberance could be put to liturgical purpose,
you'll leave wishing that there were more buildings like this
gem at 250 East 61st Street....The First Swedish Baptist Church,
founded in 1867, conducted services at the Mariners' Temple Baptist
Church. By the 1890s, the congregation was at 138 East 27th Street...,
later the Davenport theater and now the Gramercy Arts Theater
and Teatro Repertorio Espanol. It then moved to the former Trinity
Baptist Church, at 141 East 55th Street..., which late became
the American Music Hall. Plans for the present sanctuary wee filed
in 1930 by Martin Gravely Hedmark, a Swede, who created a sampler
of native motifs, with bell steeples modeled on historic originals
and a stepped profile recalling buildings along the Baltic. Major
services were conducted in Swedish until 1942, when English was
adopted, along with a new name that echoed the past: Trinity.
Center Synagogue. A flame is supposed
to come to your mind when looking at the bulbous front of this
1969 synagogue by William N. Breger at 49 White Street....in Tribeca.
The Civic Center Synagogue, home to Congration Shaare Zedek (a
different group from that on West 93rd Street), may look more
thake a marble-clad pot-bellied stove, but at least it represents
an effort to use a distinctly Modernist vocabulary for a house
of worship. And it does have some sublime moments; for instance,
the building seems to float overhead as you approach it. Shaare
Zedek was founded in 1938 to serve textile workers and civil servants
in the neighborhood. Today, it also caters to a residential and
artistic population in Lower Manhatan. 'Traditional Judaism,'
said Rabbi Jonathan Wilson Glass, 'can be a vehicle for anyone's
Judson Memorial Church. If
the Washington Arch is the gateway to Greenwich Village, the 10-tiered,
golden-brick tower of Judson Memorial Church is the triumphal
column - proclaiming an institution that could have evolved only
in the Village, with its marvelous jumble of religious, social,
political, and cultural missions. Associated over time with Stanford
White and John LaFarge, with Jim Dine, Claes Oldenburg, and Red
Grooms the church was, at its origin, linked to the Judson family.
The Rev. Edward Judson was called in 1881 to the Berean Baptist
Church on Downing Street. He expanded it so significantly that
new quarters were needed. The present church, at 55 Washington
Square South..., by McKim, Mead & White, was built from 1890
to 1893 and dedicated to Judson's father, Adoniram, a missionary
to Burma. Edward's dream was to serve gentry and immigrants. 'If
the rich and poor are ever to meet together,' he said, 'it must
be in the poor man's territory.' The church was open all week,
offering health care, employment guidance, sewing classes, even
firewood and fresh milk. In the 1950s and 1960s, it opened itself
to artists, dancers, poets and performers. Under the Rev. Peter
Laarman in the 1990s, Judson Memorial, affiliated with the Baptist
Church and the United Church of Christ, continued to see itself
on the side of self-empowerment. It also took care of its physical
plant. The stained-glass windows by La Farge were restored by
the Cummings Studio to breathtaking result.
Church of St. Francis Xavier.
Exhuberantly complex, a bit offbeat, and impossible to ignore
- both the architecture and the Jesuit-run Roman Catholic parish
itself. After a false start on Elizabeth Street, the Jesuits began
building the College of St. Francis Xavier on West 15th Street
and a church on 16th Street...., designed by William Rodrigue.
It was dedicated in 1851. In March 1877, someone shouted 'Fire!'
during a service, and seven people died in the panicked evacution.
After this calamity, the Jesuits resolved to build a new church.
The present Church of St. Francis Xavier, at 30 West 16th Street...,
designed by Patrick C. Keely, was built from 1878 to 1882. Its
great, domed crossing, with murals by William Lamprecht, is a
space of considerable grandeur and majesty. But the church also
had more earthly concerns. The Xavier Institute of Industrial
Relations helped longshoremen and tunnel workers fight union corruption.
One of the members, the Rev. John M.Corridan, was the model for
Father Barry in the 1954 movie On the Waterfront. Later,
for eight years, the church offered a Mass for members of Dignity,
a group of gay and lesbian Catholics, until the archdiocese ordered
an end to it in 1987.
United Methodist Church. What a church
this would have been! The 13-story apartment buildings that flank
the modest Broadway Temple United Methodist Church, at 4111 Broadway...,
were supposed to have been mere bookend pedestals for a skyscraper
with a revolving electric cross rising 725 feet into the sky,
an auditorium seating several thousand a social hall for 1,200,
a pool and gymnasium, and more than 400 hotel rooms and apartments.
this marvelously mad project was the brainchild of the Rev. Christian
F. Reisner, pastor of the Chelsea Methodist Episcopal Church.
In his foreword to the book, Paul Goldberger
wrote that "David W. Dunlap has proved more effectively than
even Henry Codman Potter, Stephen S. Wise, Adam Clayton Powell
Jr., Norman Vincent Peale, Felix Adler, Paul Moore Jr., John Cardinal
O'Connor, and Reverend Ike ever managed to do that New York is
not a godless city."
In his preface, Mr. Dunlap notes that the book
"describes 1,079 structures of architecture interest, 654
from the present and 425 from the past."
"My favorite building in New York is St.
Paul's Chapel," Mr. Dunlap continued, "because its civic
utility has run from the bright day of George Washington's inauguration
to the dark days of Ground Zero. And I think that the most perfectly
beautiful houseof worship in Manhattan - even though it is now
an apartment building- is theVillage Presbyterian Church. But
I wish that I had been around to see the Church of the Holy Zebra,
the Church of the Homely Oil-cloth, and their mad Victorian kin."