Grace Church (Manhattan)

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Grace Church and Dependencies
Location 800-804 Broadway,
Manhattan, New York City
Coordinates: 40°43′54″N 73°59′31″W / 40.73167°N 73.99194°W / 40.73167; -73.99194
Built 1846-1847[1]
Architect James Renwick, Jr.
et al. (see below)
Architectural style Gothic Revival
Governing body Episcopal Church
NRHP Reference # 74001270
Significant dates
Added to NRHP June 28, 1974[2]
Designated NHL December 22, 1977[3]
Designated NYCL Church & rectory:
March 15, 1966
Church houses:
February 22, 1977
Materials Sing Sing marble exterior;
lath and plaster interior

Grace Church is a historic parish church in Manhattan, New York City which is part of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. The church is located at 800-804 Broadway, at the corner of East 10th Street, where Broadway bends to the south-southeast, bringing it in alignment with the avenues in Manhattan's grid. Grace Church School and the church houses – which are now used by the school – are located to the east at 86-98 Fourth Avenue between East 10th and 12th Streets.

The church, which has been called "one of the city's greatest treasures",[4] is a French Gothic Revival[5] masterpiece designed by James Renwick, Jr., his first major commission. Grace Church is a National Historic Landmark designated for its architectural significance and place within the history of New York City,[3][6][7] and the entire complex is a New York City landmark, designated in 1966 (church and rectory) and 1977 (church houses).[5]

History and architecture[edit]

Grace Church, circa 1900

Grace Church was initially organized in 1808 at Broadway and Rector Street.[8] Under rector Thomas House Taylor, who began service at the church in 1834,[9] the decision was made to move the church uptown with the city's expanding population. In 1843, the land on which the church was built was purchased from Henry Brevoort. The 23-year-old architect James Renwick, Jr. – a nephew of Brevoort – whose sole completed work at the time was the Bowling Green Fountain, was commissioned as the architect.

The cornerstone for the new church was laid in 1843 and the church was consecrated in 1846. Grace Church was designed in the French Gothic Revival style out of Sing Sing marble,[4] and vestry minutes from January of that year break down some of the expenses for building a new church – including items ranging from the cost of the workers from Sing Sing state prison who cut the stone to the cost of the embroidery for the altar cloth. The church originally had a wooden spire, but under the leadership of the rector at the time, Henry Codman Potter, it was replaced in 1881 with a marble spire designed by Renwick.[8] The interior of the church is primarily constructed from lath and plaster.[10]

The east window over the high altar created by the English stained glass manufacturer Clayton and Bell in 1878, dominates the chancel, and the whole church; a "Te Deum" window, its theme is praise. The figures with their faces raised toward Christ, who is seated at the top center, represent prophets, apostles, martyrs and all the world. Other windows in the church are by Henry Holiday.[11] The reredos, with mosaic figures of the evangelists, is made of French and Italian Marble and Caen stone, and shows the four Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, flanking the Risen Christ as he gives the great commission, "Go into all the world and make disciples..." This piece, along with the altar, was designed by Renwick and executed by Ellin & Kitson in 1878. The choir furniture was installed in 1903 after the chancel was lengthened an additional fifteen feet in a renovation designed by Heins and La Farge. On the lawn in front of Renwick's Grace House (1880–1881), which connects the sancturary to his Rectory (1846–1847), stands a terra-cotta Roman urn dating from around the time of the Emperor Nero.[11]

For a full generation after it was built it was the most fashionable church in New York: "For many years Grace has been the centre of fashionable New York", Matthew Hale Smith observed in 1869: "To be married or buried within its walls has been ever considered the height of felicity".[12]

Renwick's 1847 rectory...
...and his 1881 Grace House
The church houses on Fourth Avenue, behind the church: Renwick's Memorial House takes up the three bays in the center, with Clergy House by Heins & LaFarge to its left, and Neighborhood House to its right.
Edward T. Potter's chantry was built in 1879, and added to in 1910 by William W. Renwick; this is the view from Broadway
The marble steeple was installed in 1883, and had its lean fixed in 2003.
The Church at dusk

Date[13] Building or action Architect
  1843-1846      sanctuary (800 Broadway)   James Renwick, Jr.
  1846–1847   rectory (804 Broadway)   James Renwick, Jr.
  1878–1879   chantry   Edward T. Potter
  1880–1881   Grace House (802 Broadway)   James Renwick, Jr.
  1881   front garden   Vaux & Co.
  1881–1882   Memorial House (92-96 Fourth Avenue)   James Renwick, Jr.
  1883   replacement of wooden spire with marble spire     James Renwick, Jr.
  1902–1903   Clergy House (90 Fourth Avenue)   Heins & LaFarge
  1903   extension of chancel   Heins & LaFarge
  1906–1907   Neighborhood House (98 Fourth Avenue)   Renwick, Aspinwall & Tucker  
  1910   additions to chantry   William W. Renwick
  1975–1976   addition to rear of church houses for school
  2003   straighten lean in spire   Walter B. Melvin Architects[11]


Like Trinity and the First Presbyterian Church, Grace Church spun off new congregations by building chapels elsewhere in the city. Its first chapel was on Madison Avenue at East 28th Street, built in 1850. The congregation became the Church of the Incarnation in 1852 and built its own sanctuary, and the chapel, which is no longer extant, was renamed the Church of the Atonement.[11]

Grace's second chapel was located at 132 East 14th Street between Third and Fourth Avenues and was built in 1861. This Renwick designed Chapel (later Church) of the Redemption burned down in 1872. The next chapel was built on the same site, designed by Potter & Robinson, and was used as a community center for the indigent residents of the area, providing classes in English and other educational programs geared to the immigrant population.[8] The second chapel is also no longer extant.[11]

Finally, Grace Church built a chapel and hospital at 406 East 14th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A, both designed by Barney & Chapman. This was closed in 1943 and sold to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, which converted it into the Church of the Immaculate Conception and Clergy Houses.[11] This complex still exists, and is New York City landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places.

Grace Church School[edit]

Main article: Grace Church School

Grace Church School, which is now located at 86 Fourth Avenue, and also occupies the church houses to the north of it in the complex, was organized in 1894, and was the first place where choir boys could receive formal training for their duties.[14] The day school began in 1934,[14] and the school now offers complete secondary education for boys and girls from pre-K to eighth grade.[15]

In 2006, the School became a legal entity separate from the Church, and owns the buildings on Fourth Avenue from #84-96, which includes Clergy House, Memorial House and Neighborhood House. The Church owns #80 (Huntington Close), as well as #100 and 102, two red-brick buildings north of the landmarked church houses.[9]

The Grace Church School's high school building is located in Cooper Square. It opened in 2011.[16]

Notable rectors[edit]

Services and programs[edit]

Grace Church offers a full schedule of prayer and Eucharist services throughout the week and is also available for special occasions such as weddings and baptisms. The church has a history of providing social services to its congregants and the surrounding neighborhood: it is thought that the church provided the first day-care center in New York City, located in Renwick's Memorial House on Fourth Avenue.[5] Today, the church provides services including a community outreach program, spiritual education classes for adults, and children and youth services. A shelter for homeless men is located in one of the church's Fourth Avenue buildings.[8]

The church is known for its Choir of Men and Boys, which was established in 1894,[17] and its rich musical program[18] which includes regular organ recitals.[19]


  • The Reverend J. Donald Waring, Rector
    • The Reverend Stephen C. Holton, Associate Rector
    • Dr. Patrick Allen[20] Organist and Master of Choristers
    • Melissa Spindler, Youth and Children

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bahamón, Alejandro and Losantos, Àgata. New York: A Historical Atlas of Architecture (New York: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, Inc., 2007), p.99.
  2. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  3. ^ a b "Grace Church". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 2007-09-14. 
  4. ^ a b White, Norval & Willensky, Elliot (2000). AIA Guide to New York City (4th ed.). New York: Three Rivers Press. ISBN 978-0-8129-3107-5. , p.165
  5. ^ a b c New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; Postal, Matthew A. (ed. and text); Dolkart, Andrew S. (text). (2009) Guide to New York City Landmarks (4th ed.) New York: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-28963-1, pp.69-70
  6. ^ Pitts, Carolyn (April 19, 1977). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination" (pdf). National Park Service. 
  7. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Inventory" (pdf). National Park Service. 1983. 
  8. ^ a b c d Wosh, Peter J. "Grace Church in Jackson, Kenneth T. (ed.), (2010) The Encyclopedia of New York City (2nd edition). New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-11465-2, p.539
  9. ^ a b c d e f g "A History of Grace Church in New York" on the Grace Church website
  10. ^ Briggs, Charles Frederick, ed. (1853). "Putnam's Monthly Magazine of American Literature, Science, and Art, Volume II". New York: G. P. Putnam & Co. p. 247. Retrieved October 17, 2013. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Dunlap, David W. From Abyssinian to Zion. (2004) New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-12543-7, pp.88-89
  12. ^ Smith, Sunshine and Shadow in New York (1869) p. 38.
  13. ^ Unless otherwise noted, all information in this table comes from New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; Postal, Matthew A. (ed. and text); Dolkart, Andrew S. (text). (2009) Guide to New York City Landmarks (4th ed.) New York: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-28963-1, p.67-68, and White, Norval & Willensky, Elliot (2000). AIA Guide to New York City (4th ed.). New York: Three Rivers Press. ISBN 978-0-8129-3107-5. , p.165
  14. ^ a b Federal Writers' Project. (1939) New York City Guide. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-403-02921-X (Reprinted by Scholarly Press, 1976; often referred to as WPA Guide to New York City), p.136
  15. ^ "Overview" on the Grace Church School website
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Choir of Men and Boys" on the Grace Church website
  18. ^ "Music" on the Grace Church website
  19. ^ "Weekend Organ Meditations" on the Grace Church website
  20. ^ "Staff | Music at Grace Church in New York". Retrieved 2013-07-04. 

External links[edit]