Churches often represent some of the most historic and stunning architecture in a community, and that’s as true if not more so of the East Village as it is of anyplace else. East Village churches range in date of construction from 1799 to 1970, come in a variety of styles and sizes, and include the oldest site of continuous worship in New York City, among other superlatives and noteworthy sites. As part of our East Village Building Blocks website, we have created a tour of all of the churches our area is “blessed” to have. You can explore the entire tour HERE, and what follows is a sampling of what you will find.
St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, 131 East 10th Street
Kicking off this tour, it makes sense to start with the oldest East Village church and probably the most well known, St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery. The church was built over a 55-year period: the main building was constructed of fieldstone in the Georgian style in 1799, the Greek Revival steeple was completed in 1828 by architect Ithiel Town, and the cast-iron, Italianate portico was added in 1854, possibly by architect James Bogardus. The iron fence was added in 1838, likely as part of a series of renovations undertaken by architect Martin E. Thompson. It is the oldest site of continuous worship in New York City (before the current church, Peter Stuyvesant’s chapel stood on the site) and the church and its grounds were designated a New York City Landmark in 1966 (click HERE for the designation report) and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. A fire damaged the church in 1978, and the building was not fully restored until 1986.
Church of the Most Holy Redeemer, 173 East 3rd Street
The church was founded by Redemptorist Fathers and built in 1852 for the surrounding German immigrant community that used to predominate in this part of the East Village. When the church was originally built, its steeple was much taller than the one seen today, and only slightly shorter than St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which it predated by several decades. The architect, according to From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan’s Houses of Worship by David Dunlap was a Mr. Walsh. This could have been Johannas Walsh, who was the only architect with the last name ‘Walsh’ in the NYC Directory from 1851-52.
Although somewhat eclectic, the overall design of the church is in a mix of the Baroque Romanesque and Byzantine Revival styles. The original 1852 church facade was heavily remodeled in 1913 by Paul Schultz. This work eliminated some ornamentation, reduced the Baroque curves, and shortened the steeple.
First Ukrainian Assembly of God, 9 East 7th Street
Although not built as a church, this magnificent marble Italianate/French Second Empire structure has served the First Ukrainian Assembly of God since 1937. It was built in 1867 originally for the Metropolitan Savings Bank and was designed by Carl Pfeiffer. This corner building is considered one of the earliest examples of fireproof construction in the city. The New York City Superintendent of Buildings in 1868 said that “it is one of the handsomest and most thoroughly constructed buildings in the city, and a perfect model in its precaution against fire.” In 1969 it was designated a New York City landmark — click HERE for the designation report.
First German Methodist Episcopal Church, 48 St. Mark’s Place
In another fine example of adaptive re-use, this c. 1841 former row house was altered in 1900 when it was acquired by the First German Methodist Episcopal Church. Parts of the original brick facade were replaced with ornate white terra cotta ornament and tracery. The first floor was converted to the church space, while the remaining floors were occupied by the church pastor and a girls home. The facade features a masonry pedimented parapet with a cross on top, gothic window enframements at the fourth-story, and a gothic entrance door frame and window detailing at the first story.
Middle Collegiate Church, 112-114 Second Avenue
This three-to-five-story Gothic Revival-style church was built in 1892 by architect Samuel B. Reed for the Collegiate Reformed Protestant Dutch Church. The present-day Middle Collegiate Church is constructed entirely from Indiana limestone. Its facade is three bays wide, featuring a gabled three-story central bay, a 130-foot hexagonal limestone spire on the five-story tower of the northern bay, and another hexagonal limestone spire on the four-story southern bay. Other features include a peaked entry vestibule with a pointed-arched main entrance, pointed-arched window openings, and elaborate stained-glass windows which are possibly made by Tiffany & Co. This church is part of the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District designated in 2012 — click HERE for the designation report.
To see the entire tour of Churches of the East Village, click HERE. To view Building Blocks, click HERE and to learn about the history and architecture of the East Village, see the report by Francis Morrone, click HERE.