Church of the Intercession, New York
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Chapel of the Intercession Complex and Trinity Cemetery
View of the church building
|Location:||550 W. 155th St., New York, New York|
|Area:||23 acres (9.3 ha)|
|Built:||1912-1915 founded= 1846|
|Architect:||Goodhue,Bertram Grosvenor; Vaux,Calvert|
|Architectural style:||Gothic, Tudor Revival, Late English Gothic Revival|
|Added to NRHP:||July 24, 1980|
The Church of the Intercession is a congregation of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America in New York City, New York. It was formerly a part of the Parish of Trinity Church and until 1976 was known as the Chapel of the Intercession. The diverse congregation has been active in community development and outreach in the neighborhood. It has Sunday services in English at 8am and 10am and in Spanish at 12:30pm. The church is located at the intersection of Broadway and 155th Street (Manhattan).
In 1846 in the tiny hamlet known as Carmansville, northwest of the village of Harlem, John James Audubon and John R. Morewood felt the need to have the services of the Episcopal Church in their own community. With time, Carmansville became known as Washington Heights and the area gradually changed from a sleepy rural spot to a part of the great city. The first services were held in the parlor of the Morewood's home on the location that is today the southeast corner of 155th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue. The founding members of the Church of the Intercession came from the Church of the Ascension on Fifth Avenue and Tenth Street, and from Trinity Church on Broadway and Wall Street. Some people have even speculated that the name, “Intercession,” was chosen by the new parish because it was somehow reminiscent of “Ascension.” The parish was incorporated in 1847.
The first Church of the Intercession was a simple wooden structure in Victorian Gothic style at the corner of 154th Street and Old Tenth (now Amsterdam ) Avenue. The outline of its roof can still be seen on the side wall of the still-standing building which once adjoined it on the playground. Completed in 1847, the first church building was used until 1872. In 187l, the Rev. W. M., Postlethwait, later chaplain at West Point, became Rector. During his three-year tenure, the vestry decided to sell the original site and move the parish.
In 1872, the Second Intercession Church was built in stone at the corner of 158th Street and Grand Boulevard, now Broadway. With the new building, however, came unexpected problems. The church was built on the expectation that Washington Heights would attract a large population. The cost of construction was far greater than expected. Further, a dispute over the church's new location resulted in dissention among the congregation and the withdrawal of much of the expected financial support. The situation worsened to such an extent that the parish became insolvent, and the sheriff took possession of the church building. For a while, the congregation was only allowed the use of the building by legal sufferance. Yet, aided by the leadership and preaching skills of the Rev. Dr. E. Winchester Donald, the next Rector, the congregation grew and the parish recovered financially enough to reclaim possession of its building.
In 1906, with Intercession still in debt and now overcrowded as well, the Rev. Dr. Milo Hudson Gates, the 13th Rector, realized the precarious situation of his parish and, knowing of Trinity Church's earlier plans eventually to build a chapel on the cemetery property, began negotiations with Trinity Wall Street Church. The solution they found was to have Intercession become one of Trinity's chapels, and a new church was to be built on the cemetery land. Intercession was “disestablished” as an independent parish and absorbed into the Trinity Church Corporation.
The first Vicar of the new Chapel was, of course, Dr. Gates himself, and in short order ambitious plans were made to build a new church. The noted architect, Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, was retained and given instructions to create what was to become his masterpiece. Goodhue was a master of the Gothic Revival style, and to his work he brought an impeccable sense of taste, a genuine feeling for historical accuracy, and a great inventiveness in adapting an ancient style to contemporary needs. Dr. Gates was a man of vision and sense of worship far in advance of his time - and his congregation. At a time when the church and our parish were far more “protestant” than “Episcopal”, he managed to achieve a church building that was truly Catholic in spirit and perfectly suited for Catholic worship - a dream that came closer to reality only years after Dr. Gates' death. The result of the Goodhue-Gates collaboration was a brilliant spiritual and artistic statement, one of the real masterpieces of church architecture in this country, considered by many to be one of the finest examples of the Gothic Revival style.
The cornerstone was laid on 24 October 1912. In May 1915, the new Chapel of the Intercession was consecrated, beginning its life as a place of worship and the object of admiration by lovers of beauty. On 24 July 1980, the Intercession buildings - the Church, Cloister, Parish Hall and Gates House (Vicarage) - were placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior, in recognition of their historical and artistic significance. The buildings, incidentally, had a few years earlier been declared a New York City Landmark.
The Church of the Intercession is known for its annual Clement Clarke Moore Festival, the oldest continuing Christmas tradition in New York. It takes place on the Sunday before Christmas at 4pm. In 2010 it will be celebrating the one-hundredth anniversary of this New York tradition. At the center of the service is the reading of Moore's narrative poem "A Visit from Saint Nicholas".
Dr. Moore, among others of the New York social elite of the time, are buried in the adjoining Trinity Church Cemetery. (In recent years Dr. Moore's authorship of the poem has been contested.) Also in the cemetery is an imposing monument to John James Audubon. His farm was in the area, but the exact location of his remains is unknown.
Movies and TV Shows 
- The basement of the church was used in the 2012 TV Show 666 Park Avenue as The Drake's "secret room."
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13.
- Upcoming Text http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Text/80002677.pdf and Photos http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Photos/80002677.pdf
- "City Architecture Stars in '666 Park'". The Wall Street Journal. 2012-09-28.
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