Tag Archives: gothic revival

Church of the Incarnation

Church of the Incarnation and the adjoining H. Percy Silver Parish House (originally a rectory) have served the Murray Hill neighborhood for a century and a half, rebuilt after a serious fire in 1882. The rectory got a new facade in 1906, and was converted to a parish house in 1934.

Apart from the building’s longevity and classical design, the church is significant for its works of art: Stained glass windows, murals and sculpture by John LaFarge, Louis C. Tiffany, William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, Christopher LaFarge, Daniel Chester French, Henry Hobson Richardson and Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The church’s website includes a virtual tour of the artwork. The Wikipedia entry also contains a list of the artworks and artists.

Several architects were involved in the church and parish house. Emlen Littell designed the original church; David Jardine designed the restoration (after the 1882 fire), which slightly modified the original plans; Heins & LaFarge designed the spire that was added in 1896. (A spire was part of Littell’s original plans, but not built.) The rectory (later parish house) has been attributed to Robert Mook, but may have actually been designed by Littell. In any case, the facade was rebuilt in 1806 in the design by Edward Pearce Casey – switching from Victorian Gothic to neo-Jacobean style.

Church of the Incarnation Vital Statistics
  • Location: 205 Madison Avenue at E35th Street
  • Year completed: 1864 (church), 1868 (parish house)
  • Architect: Emlen T. Littell (church), Robert Mook (parish house)
  • Style: Gothic Revival (church), Renaissance Revival (parish house)
  • New York City Landmark: 1979
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1982
Church of the Incarnation Suggested Reading

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Church of St. Francis of Assisi

The Church of St. Francis of Assisi is a colorfully ornate example of Gothic Revival – more colorful than what we’re accustomed to in sacred architecture. The mosaics on the outside are just a hint of what you’ll find inside – the upper church contains what was once said to be the largest mosaic in the United States, “The Glorification of the Mother of Jesus” (1925).

The church has a colorful history, too. It was created as the result of a dispute between the Bishop of New York and trustees of the nearby church St. John the Baptist. The pastor, Father Zachary Kunz, petitioned the Bishop to open a new church, and St. Francis of Assisi was the result.

Alas, the church became a “parish without parishioners” as working class residents moved out of the neighborhood in the late 1800s-early 1900s. That’s the period of time when the district became known as “The Tenderloin.” The Franciscan Friars who ran the church began ministering to people who worked, rather than lived, in the neighborhood. This meant celebrating Mass throughout the day and night, among other things. Of more recent historical note, Fr. Mychal Judge, O.F.M., a chaplain of the New York Fire Department, died at the World Trade Center South Tower on Sept. 11, 2001. Father Mychal became the first officially recorded fatality following the terrorist attack.

Church of St. Francis of Assisi Vital Statistics
  • Location: 135 W 31st Street
  • Year completed: 1892
  • Architect: Henry Erhardt
  • Style: Gothic Revival
Church of St. Francis of Assisi Suggested Reading

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90 West Street Building

The 90 West Street Building is an extraordinary building – for its architecture, and for surviving 9/11.

But to begin at the beginning: The West Street Building was built as an office building for shipping and rail companies – West Street in 1907 was on the Hudson Riverfront. The architect, Cass Gilbert, was a master of the tripartite design commonly used for tall buildings, but the West Street Building was different. Gilbert de-emphasized the base, emphasized the vertical lines of the shaft, and finished with a “Gothic fantasy” capital, including a three-story mansard roof. (Gilbert’s initial plans included a five-story tower at the top.) Where Gilbert’s earlier Broadway Chambers Building used terra cotta ornament in its upper stories, the West Street Building was almost entirely clad in terra cotta. Even the inside of the building used terra cotta, for fireproofing.

The building changed hands in 1923, and was modernized in 1933 – including a new Gilbert-designed lobby. In 1998 the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the West Street Building a landmark. It was still in use as an office building on Sept. 11, 2001, when debris from the South Tower of the World Trade Center rained down on 90 West Street.

The north (Cedar Street) facade was gashed, the roof was destroyed, and eight floors of the building were gutted or heavily damaged by fire. Although the building changed hands several times and was in limbo until 2003, the new owners were able to restore the shell thanks to the terra cotta fireproofing.

The three-year restoration converted the offices to 410 rental apartments. Contractors had to replace 75 percent of the north facade’s granite, and 7,853 pieces of terra cotta. Explore the Suggested Reading links for the full story on the restoration.

90 West Street Building Vital Statistics
  • Location: 90 West Street between Albany and Cedar Streets
  • Year completed: 1907
  • Architect: Cass Gilbert
  • Floors: 23
  • Style: Gothic Revival
  • New York City Landmark: 1998
  • National Register of Historic Places: 2007
90 West Street Building Suggested Reading

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45 East 66th Street

45 East 66th Street is a striking Gothic-embellished apartment building designed by Harde & Short, built of red brick with white terra cotta ornament. The 10-story Madison Avenue landmark has a distinctive corner tower (like Harde & Short’s Alwyn Court) and a tall cornice; the colors and ornamentation are similar to the architects’ Red House.

Originally, the luxury building had just two apartments on each floor. The building’s entrance was in the base of the corner tower, and there were no stores. In 1928, new owners moved the entry to East 66th Street (where it is now) and converted ground floor apartments to more lucrative stores. A few years later the owners began subdividing apartments – there are now 33 in the 10-story building.

45 East 66th Street Vital Statistics
45 East 66th Street Recommended Reading

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New York Cancer Hospital

The New York Cancer Hospital (aka Towers Nursing Home, aka 455 Central Park West) is one of the most striking buildings on Central Park West – if not in the entire city. What’s even more remarkable is that the Loire Valley chateau-style towers were medically prescribed – not simply decorative! Medical theory of the day was that round or octagonal wards promoted health by preventing air stagnation and the accumulation of dirt.

The hospital was privately financed, by donations from John Jacob Astor and others. The first, Astor-financed pavilion, was dedicated to treating women; later additions included a wing for men, a chapel, and an X-ray building. Public awareness of cancer was spurred by the death of President Ulysses S. Grant, from throat cancer. Until the 1880s, cancer was thought to be contagious, and limited to those living in poverty and filth.

In 1899 the hospital was renamed General Memorial Hospital for the Treatment of Cancer and Allied Diseases. In 1939 the hospital moved to the Upper East Side as Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. From 1955 to 1974 the hospital served as the Towers Nursing Home, operated by Bernard Bergman until it closed in scandal.

The abandoned buildings then became a crumbling haven for drug addicts until developer MCL Companies bought the property and successfully redeveloped the hospital/nursing home into luxury condominiums, with the addition of a 27-story tower. Apartments in the original (but gutted and rebuilt) buildings sold for up to $8 million!

A big thank you to Tsehaye Tesfai, who noticed my interest in this building and invited me up into his apartment so that I could shoot the hospital from above!

New York Cancer Hospital Vital Statistics
New York Cancer Hospital Recommended Reading

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Seventh Regiment Armory

Seventh Regiment Armory, aka Park Avenue Armory, was home of the “Silk Stocking Regiment” – militia that put down at least five riots in the city*, served in the War of 1812 and was the first militia to enlist for Civil War duty. The building’s military use is now mostly ceremonial; it has been leased (since 2006) to the Seventh Regiment Armory Conservancy, the arts group credited with rescuing the block-sized landmark from official neglect.

NYC – The Official Guide dubbed the armory “the ultimate boys’ club” because the affluent members of the Seventh Regiment built themselves an elegant home, enlisting the talents of Tiffany, Stanford White and other prominent designers of the day. It doesn’t show on the outside, but interiors were richly paneled and painted, and contained valuable artwork. Why? Because the armory (built with private, not government funds) served as a social club as well as a drill hall and weapons cache. The main drill hall, meanwhile, was among America’s first (and is the oldest surviving) “balloon shed” structures, spanning one of the largest unobstructed interiors in New York City. As a result, the building and its interiors were designated as NYC landmarks.

The building and its occupants have a rich and well-documented history – the links below are a good starting place. Also, Park Avenue Armory has public tours – information and reservations here.

* The “Right to bear arms” Second Amendment at work: The New York Times Streetscapes column noted, “When the armory was completed in 1880, Scribner’s Monthly recounted that the Seventh had served in putting down the abolition riots of 1834, the stevedore riots of 1836, the flour riots of 1837, the Croton water riots of 1840 and the Astor Place riots of 1849, in which 30 demonstrators were killed and 141 of the 200 soldiers called out were injured.”

Seventh Regiment Armory Vital Statistics
Seventh Regiment Armory Recommended Reading

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Library Hotel

Library Hotel, a Gothic Revival sliver on Madison Avenue at E 41st Street, stands out. Literally. The building’s distinctive copper-skinned bay windows project out from the building line, so occupants can look straight up Madison Avenue.

Built in 1913, the 12-story office building was originally headquarters of the Fred F. French company, a vertically-integrated real estate/architectural/construction firm. French eventually moved to Fifth Avenue and the character (and number) of tenants at 299 Madison changed over the years, until it lay vacant in the 1990s.

In 1999 new owners converted the offices into a library-themed boutique hotel – somehow fitting six rooms into each 25-by-100-foot floor. Stephen B. Jacob Group was the conversion architect.

Library Hotel Vital Statistics
Library Hotel Recommended Reading

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