St. Michael's Church (99th Street, Manhattan)

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St. Michael's Church
St. Michael's Church (99th Street, Manhattan) is located in New York
St. Michael's Church (99th Street, Manhattan)
Location 225 W. 99th St., New York, New York
Coordinates 40°47′46″N 73°58′10″W / 40.79611°N 73.96944°W / 40.79611; -73.96944Coordinates: 40°47′46″N 73°58′10″W / 40.79611°N 73.96944°W / 40.79611; -73.96944
Area less than one acre
Built 1890-91
Architect Gibson, Robert W.; Tiffany Glass & Decorating Co.
Architectural style Romanesque, Renaissance
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 96001354[1]
Added to NRHP November 15, 1996

St. Michael's Church is a historic Episcopal church at 225 West 99th Street and Amsterdam Avenue on Manhattan's Upper West Side in New York City.[2] The parish was founded on the present site in January 1807, at that time in the rural Bloomingdale District. The present limestone Romanesque building, the third on the site, was built in 1890-91 to designs by Robert W. Gibson and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

The church building also is noted for its Tiffany stained glass and its two tracker-action pipe organs built in 1967 by the Rudolph von Beckerath Organ Company (Hamburg, Germany); the church has fine acoustics.

In addition to traditional Anglican services, St. Michael's has services and prayer groups influenced by the emerging church movement.

Sale of air rights that enabled the building of The Ariel allowed St. Michael's to finance a major building restoration.[3]


St. Michael's Church

Almost uniquely among upper Manhattan's houses of worship, St. Michael's Church has been located on exactly the same site for two centuries.

The first building was a simple white frame structure with a belfry, built for pewholders of Trinity Church, Wall Street, who sought a more convenient place to worship near their summer homes overlooking the Hudson River amid the farms on what is now Manhattan's Upper West Side. At that time the City of New York was confined to the southern tip of Manhattan. Among the congregation was the widow of Alexander Hamilton. A second, larger, Carpenter Gothic building was in use from 1854 to 1891. In the 1840s and 50s Rev. Thomas McClure Peters extended a missionary church in the racially integrated settlement of Seneca Village, demolished to make way for Central Park.[4] In the 1850s the Rector's wife Mrs William Richmond transformed the John MvVickar house, formerly the center of a sixty-acre estate south of St. Michael's, for a Protestant Episcopal "home for abandoned women who found no hand outstretched to help them".[5]

The third and current building, influenced by the Romanesque and Byzantine styles and designed to seat 1,500 people, was dedicated in December, 1891.[6] The present church was erected after an elevated railroad was built on Columbus Avenue absorbing the rural district into the growing city.[6][7][8]

In 1895, Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933) was commissioned to design and install the seven great lancet windows representing St. Michael's Victory in Heaven, along with a marble altar. Twenty-five years later, Tiffany's overall design scheme was completed with the Chapel of the Angels reredos mosaic depicting the Witnesses of the Redemption. From the 1890s through the 1920s, parishioners donated stained glass windows of eclectic styles.

In 1997 St. Michael's Church became a Designated Historical Building on the National Register of Historic Places and the New York State Register of Historic Places.

Its rectory stands at the head of the former St. Michael's Lane: the ghostly presence of St. Michael's Lane may still be traced in mid-block back alleys and service access between apartment buildings for several blocks south of 91st Street.

Architecture and art[edit]

St. Michael's is noted for the many works of art created for the congregation by Tiffany studios.[9] After the church building was completed, seven windows were commissioned and installed showing "St. Michael's Victory in Heaven." Louis Comfort Tiffany designed the windows which were made in his studios with the assistance of artists Clara W. Parrish, Edward P. Sperry, Louis J. Lederle and Joseph Lauber.[10] Two additional Tiffany stained glass windows were later installed in the Chapel of the Angels,in addition to a large Tiffany mosaic behind the altar. Tiffany decorations in the main sanctuary include a white Vermont marble altar, altar rail, and pulpit and the dome of the apse. The many Tiffany features were installed between 1891 and 1920.[10] The windows were restored in 1990.[8]

After the windows were restored, the church had the entire interior painted by Fine Art Decoration of New York with the architectural details picked out in a striking array of colors drawn from the windows and mosaics.[6][8]

The square, Romanesque bell tower rises 160 feet.[8] The architect was Robert W. Gibson.[6]


A Rudolf von Beckerath organ was installed in 1967.[6]


For most of its existence, and continuing today, St. Michael's has had an impact on the physical and social development of New York City. St. Michael's founded at least six New York churches, including All Angels' Church, located first in Seneca Village, in what is now Central Park, and later on West End Avenue. After the Civil War, St. Michael's provided space and financial support for the free Bloomingdale Clinic, District Nurse Association, Day Nursery and Circulating Library.[11]

In the 1980s the congregation had dwindled to thirty, but by 1987 it was up to three hundred,[12] thanks in large part to the energies of Rev. Frederick Hill, who retired in 1992 and died in 1997. St. Michael's is known for its wide range of programs and for its congregation's wide ethnic, socio-economic, and sexual orientation diversity. The church draws people from all areas of New York City and its surroundings.[11]

Today, the church has five choirs; more than 100 children are involved in the Christian Formation Program. Social ministries include work for the hungry and the homeless, the ill and their caregivers, the unemployed and their dependents. Both church and parish house provide space for extensive parish activities and major not-for-profit community organizations.[11]

Since the early 1990s, St. Michael's has been partnered with St. Michael's, Promosa, in Matlosane, South Africa and, most recently, with the Diocese of Madras in the Church of South India.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13. 
  2. ^ Peter Salwen, Upper West Side Story: A History and Guide (New York City: Abbeville Press, 1989), p. 43. ISBN 1558594299.
  3. ^ Jim Rasenberger, “High Anxiety”, The New York Times, Sunday, 17 June 2007.
  4. ^ Salwen, p. 47.
  5. ^ Quoted in Salwen, pp. 47 ff.
  6. ^ a b c d e The New York City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, “St. Michael’s Church (Episcopal)”, The New York City Organ Project. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  7. ^ “Architecture”, St. Michael’s Church, Worshiping & Serving since 1807. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  8. ^ a b c d Christopher Gray, “St. Michael's Episcopal Church; Restoration, and Perhaps A Striking Tiffany-Style Finish”, The New York Times, Sunday, 5 February 1989.
  9. ^ Alastair Duncan, Tiffany Windows (New York City: Simon and Schuster, 1980), p. 135. ISBN 0671249517.
  10. ^ a b “Tiffany Windows”, St. Michael’s Church, Worshiping & Serving since 1807. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  11. ^ a b c Jean Ballard Terepka, “History: St. Michael’s Church: Two Centuries and Onward”, St. Michael’s Church, Worshiping & Serving since 1807. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  12. ^ Salwen, p. 289.
  13. ^ The Episcopal Diocese of New York, as a whole, has companion partnerships with the Dioceses of Matlosane and Madras (also known as Chennai) as well as Central Tanganyika, also in Africa. The parishes of this diocese are expected to assist with these partnerships. See the report about the “Diocese of New York” at the Global Episcopal Mission Network website.

External links[edit]