Calvary Baptist Church (Manhattan)

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Coordinates: 40°45′55″N 73°58′42″W / 40.765197°N 73.978431°W / 40.765197; -73.978431

Calvary Baptist Church, a "skyscraper" church at 123 West 57th Street, between the Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue) and Seventh Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, New York City
The "Gothic Tudor"[1] entrance to the building

Calvary Baptist Church is a Baptist independent church, located at 123 West 57th Street between the Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue) and Seventh Avenue, near Carnegie Hall in Midtown Manhattan, New York City.


The church was founded in 1847,[2] and its first sanctuary was at 50 West 23rd Street, completed in 1854. It then moved to a red sandstone Gothic church designed by John Rochester Thomas at its current location, which was built in 1883-1884. It also had a chapel at 223 West 67th Street, which was later used by St. Matthew's Roman Catholic Church.[1]

In 1923, Calvary became one of the earliest churches to operate its own radio station and has since maintained a long tradition of widely followed religious broadcasts.[3] "Tell It From Calvary" is a radio show that the church still produces weekly; it is heard on WMCA AM 570.[4][5]

The most recent building is an early example of an urban high-rise, or "skyscraper", church, a 16-story building which also included the Hotel Salisbury, an apartment hotel. Planning for the edifice began in 1929, with the design credited to the firm of Jardine, Hall & Murdock, and the building was dedicated in 1931.[1][6][7][8] The church's two Steinway grand pianos were donated to the church by pianist Van Cliburn, who attended periodically while living in the hotel.

Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton have worshipped at Calvary. Billy Graham[9] and Billy Sunday[10] have preached there.

In early 2020, Calvary Baptist Church and the Salisbury Hotel closed so demolition could begin and make way for a new building. The new building is anticipated to break ground in 2021. After completion, the new office building will include a new space for the church.[11][12][13] Meanwhile, the church had met in alternative venues before New York's COVID-19-related social-distancing requirements necessitated holding services and Bible studies via Facebook. [14]

Senior Pastors[edit]

  • 1847-1849 David Bellamy[15]
  • 1850-1852 John Dowling
  • 1852-1863 A. D. Gillette
  • 1864-1869 R. J. W. Buckled
  • 1870-1911 Robert Stuart MacArthur[16][17][18]
  • 1915-1917 Joseph W. Kemp[19]
  • 1918-1929 John Roach Straton. During his tenure, Calvary was nationally known as a center for fundamentalism and efforts to reform society in his vision of Bible-based morality.[20][21][22][23]
  • 1930-1934 Will H. Houghton[24] Houghton resigned from Calvary's pulpit to serve as the fourth president of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL.[25]
  • 1936-1949 William Ward Ayer[26] A poll found preacher and religious broadcaster Ayer to be Manhattan's "third-most influential citizen", behind Eleanor Roosevelt and religious broadcaster Bishop Fulton Sheen.[27]
  • 1950-1957 John Summerfield Wimbish[28]
  • 1959-1973 Stephen F. Olford[29][30][31] Olford "took it as a challenge to seek to overcome prejudice" and the church was desegregated under his leadership.[32] Today, the church "celebrates [the] congregation’s ethnic, racial, social-economic, generational, and cultural diversity within [the] unity in Jesus Christ" as one of its core values,[33] a diversity that "reflects what heaven will look like one day."[34]
  • 1976-1986 Dr. Donald R. Hubbard
  • 1989-1994 James O. Rose, Jr.
  • 1997–2018 David Paul Epstein[9]
  • No current pastor



  1. ^ a b c Dunlap, David W. (2004). From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan's Houses of Worship. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-12543-7., p.37
  2. ^ "Calvary Baptist Church. A brief sketch of its rise and progress". The New York Times, (February 15, 1875), page 6. Retrieved November 20, 2009.
  3. ^ Jaker, Bill; Sulek, Frank and Kanze, Peterr. The airwaves of New York: illustrated histories of 156 AM stations in the Metropolitan Area, 1921-1996 Page 168. WQAO went on the air 1923. One of the earliest religious broadcasters in New York. Retrieved November 20, 2009.
  4. ^ "Welcome to WMCA 570 AM & 102.3 FM - New York | The Mission WMCA - New York, NY". 2020-05-29. Archived from the original on 2020-05-29. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  5. ^ "Media | Calvary Baptist Church, NYC". Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  6. ^ Bergman, Edward F. The spiritual traveler: New York City: the guide to sacred spaces and ... HiddenSpring, 2001, ISBN 978-1-58768-003-8 pp194-105. Notes its history and that it is in a 16 story church/apartment building/hotel, owned by the church. Retrieved November 20, 2009
  7. ^ Balmer, Randall Herbert and Silk, Mark. Religion and public life in the Middle Atlantic region: the fount of diversity. AltaMira Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0-7591-0637-6. Page 13. Briefly lists the modern Calvary Baptist structure as a "neogothic skyscraper" among important religious structures in the region. Retrieved November 20, 2009.
  8. ^ Watson, Edward B. and Gillon, Edmund Vincent. New York then and now: 83 Manhattan sites photographed in the past and present. Dover Publications; 1st Edition, 1976. ISBN 978-0-486-23361-1.pp164-165. Pictures and brief history of Calvary 1883 and 1929 buildings. Retrieved November 20, 2009.
  9. ^ a b "AN UPBEAT OLD-TIME PREACHER - New York Daily News". 2020-05-29. Archived from the original on 2020-05-29. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  10. ^ "BILLY SUNDAY BACK WITH OLD 'GINGER'; Calvary Church Packed as the Evangelist Opens 2 Weeks of 'Real Preaching.'". Retrieved 2020-05-30.
  11. ^ "Billionaire's Row Is Getting A New Development: Records". Midtown-Hell's Kitchen, NY Patch. 2019-11-26. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  12. ^ Londono, Vanessa (2019-11-09). "Demo Permits Filed for 123 West 57th Street in Midtown, Manhattan". New York YIMBY. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  13. ^ "26-story office building planned on top of the Calvary Baptist Church next to One57 on Billionaires' Row". 6sqft. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  14. ^ "Sunday Worship | Calvary Baptist Church, NYC". 2020-05-29. Archived from the original on 2020-05-29. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  15. ^ "History of Calvary Baptist" Archived 2007-10-08 at the Wayback Machine on the Calvary Baptist Church website
  16. ^ "About the early history and the building of a new edifice" Frank Leslie's Sunday Magazine Volume 13, 1883. Retrieved November 20, 2009
  17. ^ MacArthur, Robert Stuart. "The Expositor and current anecdotes", Cleveland, Ohio. Vol XI, no. 7, April 1910, page 372. MacArthur had been pastor of Calvary Baptist 40 years, during which time he received 5000 members. He was an author, with 22 published volumes of sermons and compiled widely used hymnals. 10 persons were at the church's founding in 1847. Gives fairly detailed church history up to that point. The mother church had 2300 members, and 3 daughter congregations had been founded. Retrieved November 20, 2009
  18. ^ "Rev Dr. R.S. MacArthur, founder, withdraws from membership because of sensationalism" The New York Times (March 8, 1922), page 1
  19. ^ "The modern dance". The Lutheran Witness Vol. XXXVI, no. 22, (October 30, 1917), pp 335-336. Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, quoting Milwaukee Free Press (February 28, 1912), and St. Louis Post Dispatch (February 24, 1917). Rev. Joseph W. Kemp of Calvary says dancing of 150 years ago was ok, but modern dancing, in which a man places his right hand on a woman's waist, and holds her right hand with his left, while they dance the "two step," was a "shameless exhibition," showing that a man must have "degenerated in his morals" leading to "debauchery," which "violates the soundest hygienic laws. Retrieved November 20, 2009
  20. ^ Giordano, Ralph. "Satan in the dance hall: Rev. John Roach Straton, social dancing, and morality in 1920s New York City" The Scarecrow Press 2008, ISBN 978-0-8108-6146-6. Extensive discussion of Rev. Straton's campaign against immorality and dancing, his use of broadcasting starting in 1923, and his renown as a fundamentalist. Retrieved November 20, 2009.
  21. ^ Lingeman, Richard R. "Sinclair Lewis: rebel from Main Street" Borealis Books, 2005. ISBN 978-0-87351-541-2. pp 267-268, 303: The American Mercury called Straton "the Fundamentalist Pope." Retrieved November 20, 2009
  22. ^ "Religion: Calvary Baptist." Time (July 4, 1927). Notes the pentecostal meeting led by Uldine Uley, pupil of Aimee Semple McPherson and protégée of Straton. Five deacons objected to pentecostal delerium in the Monday night Bible class lasting until 2 am. Loud objections from her supporters led the deacons to resign and be criticized by Straton as trying to 'throw a monkey wrench into the machinery of the "Gospel train" of which he was the engineer.' Retrieved November 20, 2009
  23. ^ "Religion: Blatant Staton" Time (August 30, 1928). Article on Staton's morality and fundamentalism efforts 1920-1928, leading to his debate with Presidential candidate Al Smith. Mentions his 1923 ouster of 29 members for an alleged plot to oust him, and the 1926 expulsion of 4 trustees who criticized him for accepting a salary from another church while on a long vacation. Mentions his "Girl Evangelist" Uldine Utley in 1927. Retrieved November 20, 2009.
  24. ^ Carpenter, Joel A. Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism page 46: In the 1930s and 1940s, under Pastors Houghton and Ayers, Calvary was a "pocket denomination" with Moody Memorial in Chicago and Church of the Open Door in LA, with newspapers, radio programs, missionaries, and Bible conferences.Retrieved November 20, 2009
  25. ^ "DR. HOUGHTON QUITS CALVARY CHURCH; Pastor Ends Four-Year Service to Head the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. SUCCEEDED DR. STRATON 16-Story Salisbury Hotel Built Under His Administration -Brought Billy Sunday Here". Retrieved 2020-05-30.
  26. ^ Balmer, Randall Herbert. Encyclopedia of evangelicalism Pp 39-40. "Ayer, William Ward (1892-1985)." Pastor of Calvary 1936, for 13 years. Church grew from 400 to 1600 members. "Morning Truth" broadcast widely heard. Fervent fundamentalist, but warned against being "too contentious." Anti-Communist, sometimes anti-Catholic. First president of "National Religious Broadcasters." Retrieved November 20, 2009.
  27. ^ "Largo Has New Bible Church" St. Petersburg Times (April 22, 1961). Retrieved November 20, 2009.
  28. ^ "Religion: twisting the devil's tail" Time (March 16, 1953). Notes AM radio station WQAO initiated broadcasting from Calvary in 1923. Says Rev John S. Wimbush continued radio ministry, and it was the "oldest continuing religious broadcast on the air," though the broadcasts by then were on WMGM.They continued to espouse fundamentalism. Church membership: 1500. Notes move to 17 story hotel/church in 1931. Notes the independent Baptist church has stronger ties to Southern Baptists than to Northern Baptists. Retrieved November 20, 2009.
  29. ^ "CALVARY BAPTIST INSTALLS BRITON; Billy Graham Asks Church to Back Olford's Work in 'Dark and Pagan' City". Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  30. ^ "Olford Ministries International". Archived from the original on 2007-02-25. Retrieved 2018-11-17.
  31. ^ "Olford Resigns as Pastor Of Calvary Baptist Church". The New York Times. 1973-01-20. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  32. ^ . 2020-05-29 Archived from the original on 2020-05-29. Retrieved 2020-05-29. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  33. ^ "Calvary Baptist Church, 2016-2017 Annual Report" (PDF). Calvary Baptist Church. 2017. p. 6. Retrieved May 29, 2020.
  34. ^ "Sermon Review: Calvary Baptist Church(New York City) | Meghan Duke". First Things. Retrieved 2020-05-29.

External links[edit]