Madison Square Presbyterian Church, New York City (1906)
|Architectural style||Beaux-Arts architecture|
|Town or city||New York City|
|Client||Presbyterian Church in the United States of America|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Stanford White of McKim, Mead, and White|
Madison Square Presbyterian Church was a Presbyterian church in Manhattan, New York City, located on Madison Square Park at the northeast corner of East 24th Street and Madison Avenue. It was designed by Stanford White in a High Renaissance architectural style, with a prominent central dome over a cubical central space in an abbreviated Greek cross plan; it was built in 1906. The inaugural service was on 14 October. The congregation's church had previously been located on the opposing, southeast corner of Madison and 24th Street, in a Gothic-style structure, also called the "Madison Square Presbyterian Church", whose cornerstone was laid in 1853 and which was completed the following year. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company purchased the original site for the construction of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower, a 48-story building completed in 1909 which was the world's tallest building when it was constructed.
The new church, valued at $500,000 and called the "Parkhurst Church" after its pastor, Reverend Charles Henry Parkhurst, was described as "one of the most costly religious edifices in the city"; it was awarded the Gold Medal of Honor of the American Institute of Architects. To hold its own with the towering commercial blocks surrounding it, both built and to come, its entrance was through a portico supported by six pale green granite columns, fully 30 feet tall. The building was raised on a marble plinth and built of specially molded bricks in two slightly varied tonalities in a diaper pattern and white and colored architectural terracotta details. It featured a low saucer dome covered in yellow and green tiling, with a prominent gilded lantern. The pediment sculptures by the German-born Adolph Alexander Weinman were tinted by the painter Henry Siddons Mowbray, giving the building a polychromy unusual in American Beaux-Arts architecture. Extensive mosaics and Guastavino tile gave the interior a Byzantine aspect,
The building's architectural style was described by a member of the firm in 1930 as "the Early Christian, with plan in the shape of the Greek cross, like the early Byzantine churches" though a modern viewer would find closer parallels in High Renaissance centrally planned churches of the 16th century, or Andrea Palladio's Tempietto at the Villa Barbaro at Maser.
After the Madison Square church was combined with other Presbyterian churches located on Fifth Avenue and on University Place, the 75 feet (23 m) by 150 feet (46 m) lot was purchased by Metropolitan Life for $500,000, with the funds used to endow the combined churches. While the church's original stained glass windows, organ and seating had been removed and transferred to the Old First Presbyterian Church, and the pediment with its sculptures was reerected on the south-facing Park façade of McKim, Mead, and White's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the other architectural details were left to be scavenged by the wrecking company that razed the building. The New York Times described the building as having "long been recognized as one of the masterpieces of the late Stanford White" and called the church's destruction "a distinct architectural loss to the city".
The 24th Street site was demolished starting in May 1919 to make way for an 18-story annex building that Metropolitan Life constructed at a cost of $1 million, which connected to a previously built 16-story annex on the north side of the street. The earlier annex was connect to the Metropolitan Life Tower by a bridge over 24th Street. A decade later the annex buildings were leveled, and the entire block bounded by 24th Street, 25th Street, Madison Avenue and Park Avenue South became the site of the Metropolitan Life North Building, still extant, which was designed to accommodate a building as high as 80 stories, of which only 30 were constructed.
- Mendelsohn, Joyce. Touring the Flatiron. New York: New York Landmarks Conservancy, 1998. ISBN 0-964-7061-2-1, p.22
- NYPL Digital Images
- Dedication of the Madison Square Presbyterian Church: Sunday, October fourteenth nineteen hundred and six; morning and evening service.
- Staff. "Laying of the Corner-stone of Madison-square Presbyterian Church--Address by Rev. Dr. Adams.", The New York Times, July 13, 1853. Accessed November 16, 2010.
- Staff. "RAZE PARKHURST CHURCH.; Famous Piece of Architecture Making Way for Office Building.", The New York Times, May 6, 1919. Accessed November 16, 2010.
- Ennis, Thomas W. "1909 TOWER HERE GETTING NEW LOOK; Metropolitan Life Building Is Being Modernized Planned by LeBrun 1909 TOWER HERE GETTING NEW LOOK Chimes Silenced The 'Old' Garden Gone", The New York Times, January 7, 1962. Accessed November 17, 2010.
- William Mitchell Kendall, in Edward Warren Hoak, Willis Humphrey Church, eds. Masterpieces of American Architecture: Museums, Libraries, Churches and Other Public Buildings, 1930:105 (reprinted 2002).
- Kendall 1930.
- It was called "a fine example of Byzantine architecture" by J.F.L. Collins, Both Sides of Fifth Avenue, 1910, which may have inspired Nathan Silver to call it "Byzantine" when illustrating the exterior in Lost New York, (New York: Weathervane Books, 1967), p.148
- Kendall 1930.
- Noted by William Mitchell Kendall of the firm, 1930.
- Staff. "MILLION DOLLAR BUILDING TO REPLACE PARKHURST CHURCH ON MADISON AVENUE; Eighteen-Story Structure Being Built by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Will Be Connected with Main Building by Bridge Across Twenty-fourth Street", The New York Times, September 28, 1919. Accessed November 16, 2010.
- Staff. "METROPOLITAN LIFE TO BUILD NEW TOWER; Acquires Whole Block From 24th to 25th St. and Madison to 4th --Talk of 80 Stories.", The New York Times, September 25, 1929. Accessed November 16, 2010.