Church of the Transfiguration, Episcopal (Manhattan)

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For the Roman Catholic church in Chinatown, see Church of the Transfiguration, Roman Catholic (Manhattan).
Church of the Transfiguration
c.1900
Location 1 E. 29th St., New York, New York
Denomination Episcopal Church
Churchmanship Anglo-Catholic
Website The Church of the Transfiguration
Administration
Deanery Manhattan
Diocese New York
Province II
Church of the Transfiguration and Rectory
Church of the Transfiguration, Episcopal (Manhattan) is located in Manhattan
Church of the Transfiguration, Episcopal (Manhattan)
Location in Manhattan
Coordinates 40°44′43″N 73°59′10″W / 40.74526°N 73.98598°W / 40.74526; -73.98598Coordinates: 40°44′43″N 73°59′10″W / 40.74526°N 73.98598°W / 40.74526; -73.98598
Built 1849
Architect lych-gate only:
Frederick C. Withers
all other structures:
unknown
Architectural style Gothic Revival
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 73001216[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP June 4, 1973
Designated NYCL May 25, 1967

The Church of the Transfiguration, also known as the Little Church Around the Corner, is an Episcopal parish church located at 1 East 29th Street, between Madison and Fifth Avenues in the NoMad neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. The congregation was founded in 1848 by the Rev. Dr. George Hendric Houghton and worshiped in a home at 48 East 29th Street until the church was built and consecrated in 1849.

The church was designed in the early English Neo-Gothic style; the architect has not been identified.[2] The sanctuary is set back from the street behind a garden which creates a facsimile of the English countryside and which has long been an oasis for New Yorkers, who relax in the garden, pray in the chapel, or enjoy free weekday concerts in the main church. The complex has grown somewhat haphazardly over the years, and for this reason it is sometimes called the "Holy Cucumber Vine".[3] The sanctuary had a guildhall, transepts, and a tower added to it in 1852, and the lych-gate, designed by Frederick C. Withers, was built in 1896. Chapels were added in 1906 (lady chapel) and 1908 (mortuary chapel).

In 1967, the church was designated a New York City landmark,[2] and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.[1]

Early years[edit]

The church has been a leader of the Anglo-Catholic movement within the Episcopal Church from its founding.[citation needed] While this movement is often associated with elaborate worship, it also has stressed service to the poor and oppressed from its earliest days. In 1863, during the Civil War Draft Riots, Houghton gave sanctuary to African Americans who were under attack, filling up the church's sanctuary, schoolroom, library and vestry. When rioters showed up at the church, Houghton turned them away and dispersed them by saying, "You white devils, you! Do you know nothing of the spirit of Christ?"[3]

Ties to the theater[edit]

Actors were among the social outcasts whom Dr. Houghton befriended. In 1870, William T. Sabine, the rector of the nearby Church of the Atonement, which is no longer extant, refused to conduct funeral services for an actor named George Holland, suggesting, "I believe there is a little church around the corner where they do that sort of thing." Joseph Jefferson, a fellow actor who was trying to arrange Holland's burial, exclaimed, "If that be so, God bless the little church around the corner!" and the church began a longstanding association with the theater.[3]

P. G. Wodehouse, when living in Greenwich Village as a young writer of novels and lyrics for musicals, married his wife Ethel at the Little Church in September 1914. Subsequently, Wodehouse would set most of his fictionalized weddings at the church; and the hit musical Sally that he wrote with Jerome Kern and Guy Bolton ended with the company singing, in tribute to the Bohemian congregation: "Dear little, dear little Church 'Round the Corner / Where so many lives have begun, / Where folks without money see nothing that's funny / In two living cheaper than one."[4]

In 1923, the Episcopal Actors' Guild held its first meeting at Transfiguration. Such theatrical greats as Basil Rathbone, Tallulah Bankhead, Peggy Wood, Joan Fontaine, Rex Harrison, Barnard Hughes, and Charlton Heston have served as officers or council members of the guild.[3] The Little Church's association with the theatre continued in the 1970s, when it hosted the Joseph Jefferson Theatre Company, which gave starts to actors such as Armand Assante, Tom Hulce, and Rhea Perlman.[3]

As well as being a guild officer, Sir Rex Harrison was memorialized at the church upon his death in 1990. Maggie Smith, Brendan Gill, and Harrison's sons, Carey and Noel, spoke at the service.

Recent history[edit]

The Little Church Around the Corner is known for the long service of its rectors: in the 150 years from its founding to 1998, there were only five.[3] The Reverend Jackson Harvelle Randolph Ray (June 11, 1886 – June 1963), for instance, was rector from 1923 to 1963. The parish is currently under the rectorate of the Right Reverend Andrew St. John, formerly assistant bishop in the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne. St. John was named vicar on March 1, 2005, and called as rector on May 13, 2007.[citation needed]

Music program[edit]

The church has long been associated with a program of free music performances. The Anglican tradition of a men's and boys' choir has been maintained with special music for concerts and summer services provided by a choir of mixed voices. In 1988, the Arnold Schwartz Memorial organ, a new tracker pipe organ was built and installed at the church by C. B. Fisk, Inc.

Gallery[edit]

Interior of the church 
East end of the courtyard 
West end of the courtyard 

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  2. ^ a b 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.80
  3. ^ a b c d e f Dunlap, David W. From Abyssinian to Zion. (2004) New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-12543-7, p.131
  4. ^ McCrum, Robert (2004). Wodehouse: A Life. New York: W. W. Norton. p. 112. ISBN 0-393-05159-5. Retrieved 13 December 2011. 

External links[edit]