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Christ Church (United Methodist)

520 Park Avenue

Northwest corner at 60th Street

Christ Church

Church abounds in arches

By Carter B. Horsley

Like the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest on Fifth Avenue at 90th Street, this impressive church conveys a strong sense of monumentality in a bulky, towerless form. Both are solid architectural bastions.

Designed by Ralph Adams Cram and completed in 1933, the building, which is very close to the midtown office district, this building has a lovely façade of yellow and beige stone. In his fine book, "Glory in Gotham, Manhattan's Houses of Worship, A Guide to Their History, Architecture and Legacy," a City & Country Guide published in 2001 (see The City Review article), David W. Dunlap notes that the architect, who was "a master of Gothic," here "used a robust Romanesque-Byzantine palette, explaining that the 'Protestant congregation was averse to Medieval Catholicism both by inheritance and doctrine."

In their excellent book, "The A. I. A. Guide to New York City Architecture, Fourth Edition" (Three Rivers Press, 2000) (see The City Review article), Elliot Willensky and Norval White provide the following interesting commentary:

"A church designed to appear aged: the randome limestone and brick is intended to look like a sophisticated patch job centuries old. Similarly, the marble and granite columns appear to be, in the Romanesque and Byzantine manner, pillage from Roman temples. Handsome, and of impeccable taste, it is an archaeological and eclectic stage set for well-to-do parishioners. Look at the mosaic ceiling, especially when lit by blue bulbs."

The church was formed by the merger of the Madison Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church and the 61st Street Methodist Episcopal Church and for decades was well-known as the church of the Rev. Ralph Washington Sockman whose NBC radio program, "National Radio Pulpit," was broadcast from 1928 to 1962.

In late 2005, the church sold its air rights to the Zeckendorf Organization, which planned to build a luxury condominium apartment tower on the mid-block between Madison and Avenues. (12/20/05) The plan, however, ran into some controversy when members of the Grolier Club just to the west hesitated over the sale of its air rights for the project. (2/20/06)


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