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Second Church of Christ, Scientist

Southwest corner at Central Park West and 68th Street

Second Church of Christ, Scientist, southwest corner at 68th Street

By Carter B. Horsley

This handsome Beaux-Arts-style church was erected in 1900 to designs by Frederick R. Comstock.

It was built three years after Brunner & Tryon designed Congregation Shearith Israel on southwest corner of Central Park West and 70th Street.

In their 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 Wren."

View from the northeast

View from the northeast

 

The Christian 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."

In 2003, First Church announced its intention to sell the church.

 

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