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St. Nicholas of Myra Orthodox Church

Recently, our friends over at EV Grieve posted a great then-and-now of the southwest corner of Avenue A and East 10th Street.  This beautiful building, St. Nicholas of Myra Orthodox Church, became an official New York City Landmark in 2008 (you can read the designation report HERE).  Completed in 1883, St. Nicholas of Myra actually has a direct connection to GVSHP’s neighbor, St. Mark’s in the Bowery Church.

Saint Nicholas of Myra Orthodox Church (images courtesy of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission/ Chris Brazee)

St. Mark’s in the Bowery was founded in 1795 at what is now the corner of 10th and Stuyvesant Streets, but was then part of Peter Stuyvesant’s farm that had contained a Dutch Reformed Church built in 1660.  St. Mark’s was built to serve the growing, and wealthy, Episcopal population.  An important tenet of the Episcopal Church has always been outreach in the form of missionary work, and as such St. Mark’s in the Bowery established a school for poor children, the Ladies Benevolent Society, and mission chapels in the neighborhood.  In 1868 members of St. Mark’s Church donated money to purchase a small building on Avenue A, just south of East 10th Street.  Known as St. Mark’s Chapel, this mission church sought to educate the neighborhood’s poor and immigrants about the Episcopal church. It was run by the St. Mark’s in the Bowerie Mission Society.

St. Mark’s in the Bowery Church

In 1881, Rutherford Stuyvesant, who had inherited much of Peter Stuyvesant’s land, purchased the corner lots of Avenue A and 10th Street, directly adjacent to those held by the St. Mark’s in the Bowerie Mission Society.  Rutherford was the son of the renowned scientist Dr. Lewis Morris Rutherford and Margaret Stuyvesant Chandler, great niece of Peter Stuyvesant.  Rutherford commissioned renowned architect James Renwick Jr. to design the Memorial Chapel for St. Mark’s in the Bowery Church, which he would subsequently hand over to them.  Renwick’s other works include Grace Church and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  A late work of Renwick’s, the Memorial Chapel was was much less ornate than his other commissions, though its simplicity suited the building’s purpose.  Renwick employed his signature Gothic Revival style for the Memorial Chapel.  According to the designation report, the design:

is enriched with a highly varied roofline and areas of intricate, terra-cotta trim…..It is large and complexly massed, with each section clearly defined. The library and school are located at the corner of 10th Street and Avenue A and are distinguished by a tall, square bell tower topped by a steep pyramidal roof. The front of this section is embellished by a terra-cotta bas relief of a lion, the symbol of St. Mark the Evangelist. The dramatic entranceway, with an intricate stained-glass transom, is set within a recessed Gothic arch and is asymmetrically located between the school and the chapel. The street-facing, gable end of the chapel is marked by three tall, gothic-arched windows united by an applied pointed-arch lintel. The peak of this gable is ornamented by an arcade and an section of terra-cotta ornament.

Saint Nicholas of Myra Orthodox Church (images courtesy of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission/ Chris Brazee)

The report states that, “This church ceased functioning as the mission church of St. Mark’s Church in 1911 and for a few years the building was rented by the Holy Trinity Slovak Lutheran Church.  The St. Nicolas of Myra Carpatho-Russian Church was formed in 1925 and immediately rented the church building. They added the distinctive copper crosses to the top of the tower, the peak of the sanctuary gable and the entrance porch.”

Saint Nicholas of Myra Orthodox Church, detail of copper cross (images courtesy of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission/ Chris Brazee)

St. Nicholas of Myra Church was started by Carpatho-Russians, people from the Carpathian Mountain region of Eastern Europe (today’s northern and eastern Slovakia, southeastern Poland, and southwestern Ukraine).  The first organized meeting of a Carpatho-Russian Church in New York City occurred in September 1925, nearby in the SS Peter and Paul Orthodox Church on East 7th Street.  Just three weeks later, the congregation moved into the 10th Street building.  “This church became the ethnic center for all Carpatho-Russian people in the area and provided school, and social and cultural activities such as choirs, dance groups and language courses. It is still in use by the same congregation.”

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