Fourth Universalist Society in the City of New York

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The corner belltower

The Fourth Universalist Society in the City of New York is a congregation within the Unitarian Universalist Association. It is the last surviving Universalist congregation in Manhattan.

The congregation was founded in 1838 as New York's fourth society devoted to the Universalist faith (the previous three were founded in 1796, 1830 and 1832, respectively). At one time, New York had seven Universalist societies, but only the Fourth Universalist Society remains today. The congregation's original name was Friends of the Final Restitution. In 1848, it changed its name to Church of the Divine Paternity. It officially took the name of the Fourth Universalist Society in the City of New York in 1967. Among its most famous parishioners were P. T. Barnum, Horace Greeley and Lou Gehrig.[1]

In 1898, the congregation moved to a church located at West 76th Street and Central Park West in New York's Upper West Side. The architect, William Appleton Potter based the design closely upon Magdalen Tower, Oxford and buildings at Magdalen College. In 1993 Robert A. M. Stern and his co-authors [2] described the church as "one of the few buildings to break from Central Park West's prevailing Classicism. A rare archaeological design in English Perpendicular Gothic, it evaded the issue of representing the particular beliefs of the denomination."[3] The altar is by Louis Comfort Tiffany and there are a bronze relief sculpture by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and stained glass windows by Clayton and Bell of London. The original organ, now much rebuilt, was donated by Andrew Carnegie and his wife, Louise Carnegie's, family were members of the church.[4]

Front view of the church.

In the 1980s, the congregation received inquiries from developers eager to obtain the church’s choice property location. Instead, the congregation joined with community activists to form Save Our Universalist Landmark (SOUL) and successfully raised funds for maintenance and capital improvements. In return for these funds, the church promised not to exercise its development rights.[5]

Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt became the senior minister of the congregation in March 2002. The church tower, dedicated by the congregation to peace and named "The Peace Tower of New York City," is used by NBC each November as its “high-tech command center” for live coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.[6]

Rev. Bray McNatt left her position as senior minister of the congregation in June 2014. Rev. Susan Milnor has been appointed as the Interim Minister starting August 2014.


  1. ^ "Fourth Universalist Society of New York. Records, 1839-2001". Andover-Harvard Theological Library. Harvard Divinity School. Retrieved 1 July 2014. 
  2. ^ Robert A. M. Stern, Gregory Gilmartin and John Massengale, New York 1900, Metropolitan Architecture and Urbanism, 1890-1915 (Rizzoli International Publications) 1993.
  3. ^ "The Fourth Universalist Society of New York" The City Review
  4. ^ Fourth Universalist Society: Organ specifications
  5. ^ “A Town Without Churches?” The Manhattan Institute
  6. ^ "She's Tuned in to Her New Flock" New York Daily News

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Coordinates: 40°46′43.4″N 73°58′28.5″W / 40.778722°N 73.974583°W / 40.778722; -73.974583