St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church (Manhattan)
St. Bartholomew's Church
and Community House
|Location||109 E. 50th St.
Manhattan, New York City
|Area||1 acre (0.40 ha)|
McKim, Mead & White
|Architectural style||Romanesque Revival, Byzantine Revival|
|NRHP Reference #||80002719|
|Added to NRHP||April 16, 1980|
|Designated NYCL||March 16, 1967|
St. Bartholomew's Church, commonly called St. Bart's, is a historic Episcopal parish founded in January 1835, and located on the east side of Park Avenue between 50th and 51st Street in Midtown Manhattan, in New York City.
The second location, built from 1872 to 1876 at the southwest corner of Madison Avenue and East 44th Street, was designed by James Renwick, the architect of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, in the Lombardic style. The building was embellished in 1902–1903 with a triple French Romanesque Revival portal by Stanford White, who took as his inspiration the church of Saint-Gilles, Gard, between Arles and Nîmes, which White had admired in 1878; the sculptures in the tympana are Renaissance-inspired. The portal was paid for by the family of Cornelius Vanderbilt II as a memorial; Vanderbilt's father, William H. Vanderbilt, had sold the site to the church. The magnificent bronze doors, with bas-reliefs in panels depicting episodes from the Old and New Testaments, were carried out by some of New York's established sculptors: Andrew O'Connor, working freely under the general direction of Daniel Chester French, executed the main door; the south door was executed by Herbert Adams, the north door by Philip Martiny.
The current church was erected in 1916–17. The original freely handled and simplified Byzantine Revival design by Bertram Goodhue was called "a jewel in a monumental setting" by Christine Smith in 1988. Goodhue modified his design in response to the requirement that the old church portal, beloved by the parishioners, be preserved, with its bronze doors, from the Madison Avenue building and re-erected on the new site.
The foundation stone of Goodhue's original design, a vast, unified barrel-vaulted space, without side aisles or chapels and with severely reduced transepts, was laid 1 May 1917 and the construction was sufficiently far along for the church to be consecrated in 1918; its design was altered during construction, after Goodhue's sudden, unexpected death in 1924, by his office associates, in partnership as Mayers, Murray and Philips; they were engaged in erecting the community house, continuing with the same materials, subtly variegated salmon and cream-colored bricks and creamy Indiana limestone; they designed the terrace that still provides the equivalent of a small square, surrounded by the cliff-like facades of Midtown commercial structures (illustration, upper right); in summer, supplied with umbrellas and tables, it becomes the outside dining area for the restaurant, Inside Park. They also inserted the "much discussed" dome, tile-patterned on the exterior and with a polychrome Hispano-Moresque interior dome, which substituted for the spire that had been planned but never built. Completed in 1930, the church contains stained-glass windows and mosaics by Hildreth Meiere, and a marble baptismal font by the Danish follower of Canova, Bertel Thorvaldsen. St. Bartholomew's, completed by 1930 at a cost of $5,400,000, is one of the city's landmarks. For long one of New York's wealthiest parishes, St. Bart's is known for a wide range of programs. It draws parishioners from all areas of New York City and surroundings. It is the final resting place for actresses Lillian Gish (1893–1993), Dorothy Gish (1898–1968), and their mother Mary Gish (1876–1948).
Saint Bartholomew's Church and Community House was designated a landmark by the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1967, a move opposed at the time by the rector and vestry. Beginning in 1981, St. Bartholomew's found itself the subject of a much-publicized case concerning air rights in the highly-competitive New York real estate market clashing with historical preservation. The parishioners wanted to replace the community house and open terrace with a speculative high-rise commercial structure that would re-capitalize the parish's depleted funds; following a series of public hearing the Landmarks Preservation Commission turned down the plans for a fifty-nine story office building.
The case, St. Bartholomew's Church v. New York Landmarks Preservation Commission, raised as a constitutional issue the question whether churches and religious buildings should be exempt from historic ordinances. In 1989, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York rejected the parish's claim, upholding the constitutionality of the Landmarks Law as applied to property owned by religious groups. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed this decision in 1990, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari (i.e., declined to hear the appeal) in 1991. It was a victory for landmark preservation.
St. Bartholomew's is noted for its pipe organ, the largest in New York and one of the ten largest in the world. One of the church's former choir-directors was the famous conductor Leopold Stokowski, who was brought from Europe by St. Bart's; he was followed by the organist-choirmaster David McKinley Williams. Another of the church's music directors was Harold Friedell, the well-known composer and Juilliard educator. The church's choir has achieved distinction under the direction of conductors such as William Trafka and James Litton. The Chorister Program has also had success in bringing together children ages 6–18 to sing in the church, and has been featured on shows such as The Today Show and Good Morning America.
In popular culture
- In the 1981 movie Arthur, Arthur's (Dudley Moore) wedding with Susan Johnson (Jill Eikenberry) was to take place at St. Bart's. The infamous wedding scene in the remake of the same film was also filmed at St. Bart's in July 2010.
- In the 2010 film Salt, the Russian President is supposedly killed in the church while delivering a eulogy at the funeral of the late American Vice President.
- In the television series Mad Men, Margaret Sterling, the daughter of Roger Sterling, plans to marry in the church.
Angel praying towards relief of the Last Supper in the baptismal chamber north of the altar.
- Anglican Communion
- Churches Uniting in Christ
- Complete List of Presiding Bishops
- Succession of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in the United States
- National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- Dunlap, David W. (2004). From Abyssinian to Zion. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-12543-7.
- [The WPA Guide to New York (1939) 1982:236f; Gray 2006
- "St. Bartholomew’s History." From the church Web site. Retrieved 2010-04-01.
- O'Connor was a primary assistant of French.
- Smith, St. Bartholomew's Church in the City of New York (New York: Oxford University Press) 1988. That book discusses Goodhue's use of his sources and the technology of early twentieth-century construction, drawing from parish records and Goodhue's office papers.
- The church makes much use of Guastavino tile for its vaulting.
- To the Glory of God this foundation stone was laid on the first day of May in the Year of our Lord MD CCCC XVII and of the Reformation The Four Hundredth by the Right Reverend David Hummel Greer - Bishop of New York - Sometime Rector of this Parish (Foundation stone)
- WPA Guide.
- In Goodhue's former studio at 2 West 47th Street, Christopher Gray noted the discovery of "a photograph of the office's reception room containing a huge model of St. Bartholomew's with a giant spire that was never built." (Christopher Gray, "Streetscapes: 2 West 47th Street, the Office of R. O. Blechman", The New York Times 16 April 2000.
- The WPA Guide to New York (1939) 1982:236f
- Andrew Dolkart, Matthew A. Postal, Guide to New York City Landmarks, (New York: John Wiley & Sons) 2003:120, no. 336.
- The case is briefly discussed in Norman Tyler, Historic Preservation: An Introduction to Its History, Principles, and Practice (W.W. Norton) 2000:88ff
- St. Bartholomew's Church v. City of New York, 728 F. Supp. 958 (S.D.N.Y. 1989), aff'd 914 F.2d 348 (2d Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 499 U.S. 905 (1991).
- Article: "The portal of Saint Bartholomew's Church in New York City"
- Christopher Gray, "Streetscapes: Time and gravity take a toll on St. Bartholomew's Church", The New York Times, 8 October 2006.
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