Beaux-Arts-style church was erected in 1900 to designs by Frederick
It was built
three years after Brunner & Tryon designed Congregation Shearith
Israel on southwest corner of Central Park West and 70th Street.
superb book, "New York 1900, Metropolitan Architecture and
Urbanism, 1890-1915," (Rizzoli International Publications,
Inc., 1983), Robert A. M. Stern, Gregory Gilmartin and John Massengale
noted that "Comstock's design, a densely composite synthesis
of historical allusions, was an inventive response to the task
of representing a creed with no specific architectural heritage.
The side street and avenue facades were of different lengths,
but each was a tripartite composition based on a heroically scaled
arched window with a pediment above and flanking corner piers.
The similarity of the faces reflected the square proportions of
the auditorium within, and implied a centralized plan which alluded
to the humanism of the Italian Renaissance. The exterior detailing
combined fashionable Modern French ornament with the severe proportions
of the neo-Grec. The interior was contrastingly sober; the sparsity
of its ornament recalled the frugal London churches of Sir Christopher
Science Church was founded in Boston by Mary Baker Eddy after
the Civil War and emphasized healing through faith. Mrs. Eddy
appointed Augusta Stetson in the 1880s to establish a branch in
New York City.
In his superb
book, "New York Streetscapes: Tales of Significant Buildings
and Landmarks," (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2003), Christopher
Gray observes that Mrs. Stetson apparently was quite "contentious."
"When the Second Church of Christ, Scientist bought a building
site at 68th Street and Central Park West in 1898, she tried to
interfere with their purchase, and then purchased one two blocks
south, to try to scare them away from what she thought was First
Church's neighborhood. When Mrs. Eddy died in 1910 she left a
bequest to Second Church, but not Mrs. Stetson's organization.
In 1909, while still head for First Church, Mrs. Stetson was excommunicated
from the Mother Church in Boston and then left First Church. However,
she remained in her house next door at 5 West 96th Street, successfully
suing First Church in 1923 to prevent it from erecting a wall
that would cut off her east light. She died in 1928."
First Church announced its intention to sell the church.