Church of Christ, Scientist, was completed in 1901, two years
before the completion of the First Church of Christ, Scientist,
on the northwest corner of Central Park West and 96th Street (see
City Review article).
by Frederick R. Comstock, the Second Church is notable for the
green dome atop its squat neo-Classical base. The First Church,
designed by Carrère & Hastings, is a much more monumental
edifice of very imposing grandeur with a high steeple.
excellent book, "New York 1900, Metropolitan Architecture
and Urbanism, 1890-1915," (Rizzoli International Publications,
Inc., 1983," Robert A. M. Stern, Gregory Gilmartin and John
Massengale describe the Second Church as "a densely composite
synthesis of historical allusions, [which] was an inventive response
to the task of representing a creed with no specific architectural
side street and avenue facades," they continued, "were
of different lengths, but each was a tripartite composition based
on a heroically scale arched window with a pediment above and
flanking corner piers. The similarity of the facades 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."
found the First Church's architecture "a far more powerful
design," describing it "a major monument of the Composite
Era, it was one of the city's most compelling religious structures
in the Classical manner," and provide the following commentary:
& Hastings's evocation of the low church architecture of Georgian
London and New England set the tone for many subsequent Christian
Science churches throughout the northeast. Carrère &
Hastings achieved a remarkable sense of soliditynot only through
the blocky composition, inspired by the English Mannerist architect
Nicholas Hawksmoor, but also through the use of extremely large
blocks of a white Concord granite, a stone so hard that it shattered
mechanical saws and had to be cut by hand. Inside, the church
was less distinctly English in feeling. A gallery wrapped around
three sides of the auditorium, and barrel vaults sprang from piers
which barely cleared the galleries, creating a powerfully encompassing
effect. The room was largely undecorated, except for an elaborate
organ case and rich Modern French plasterwork on the ceiling,
which also contained roundels of concealed lighting. Supported
above the auditorium arches were the church's offices, reading
rooms and extensive Sunday school facilities. Clearly expressed
on the exterior, their location reflected a unique solution to
the problem of the parochial complex. Owen R. Washburn was correct
in his assessment for the Architectural Record: "if
we may not speak of a cathedral, in this case, we surely possess
the metropolitan church."
Science Church was founded in Boston by Mary Baker Eddy after
the Civil War and emphasized healing through faith. Mrs. Eddy
appointed Augusta Emma Stetson in the 1886 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 remaied in her house next door at 5 West 96th Street, successfully
suing First Church in 1923 to preventit from erecting a wall that
would cut off her east light. She died in 1928."
great book, "The A.I.A. Guide to New York City Architecture,
Fourth Edition," (Three Rivers Press, 2000), Elliot Wilensky
and Norval write noted that "The architects of the Beaux
Arts-style New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street
flirt here with the forms of Nicholas Hawksmoor's great Baroque
churches in London. Exciting."
First Church announced its intention to sell the church.