St. John's Chapel (New York City)

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Coordinates: 40°43′16″N 74°00′22″W / 40.72111°N 74.00611°W / 40.72111; -74.00611

An engraving of the chapel in The New-York Mirror from 1829.

St. John's Chapel was a chapel in the Episcopal parish of Trinity Church (Manhattan).


It was constructed in 1803 to designs by John McComb Jr. and his brother Isaac McComb on Varick Street, facing St. John's Park. McComb gave it a sandstone tetrastyle prostyle portico supporting a tower and multi-storeyed spire that rose to 214¼ feet. Master builders for the chapel have been recorded as T. C. Taylor, Henry Hedley, Daniel Domanick and Isaac McComb.[1] The chancel was added in 1857 to designs by Richard M. Upjohn.[2]

The original location of this church was one of the most attractive in New York. It stood on the eastern side of St. John's Park whose tree-shaded walks were a favorite recreational spot for the well-to-do residents of the neighbourhood. In 1867 Trinity Church, which had retained ownership of the park, sold it to the Hudson River Railroad for a downtown freight terminal. This unfortunate occurrence changed the character of the residential section nearby; the warehouse's undesirable influences were felt for many blocks in every direction. What had been a neighborhood of patrician dwellings was reduced to a slovenly purlieu of ramshackle buildings.[1]

The congregation left in the 1890s and the structure was torn down in 1918.[3] It was cleared during a road-widening scheme for New York City’s Varick Street. City officials wanted to allow the portico to protrude into the widened street and vault the flanking pedestrian sidewalk under it because they recognized the steeple’s importance as a landmark. The Episcopal Church instead decided to demolish the building.[4]


  1. ^ a b "Portico of St. John's Chapel, Varick Street," Special Index Issue: The American Architect (Weekly publication, founded 1876), (New York:243 West 39th Street) (July–December 1920).
  2. ^ J. Russiello, A Sympathetic Planning Hierarchy for Redundant Churches: A Comparison of Continued Use and Reuse in Denmark, England and the United States of America (MSc Conservation of Historic Buildings, University of Bath, 2008), p.26-31.
  3. ^ Nathan Silver, Lost New York, (New York: Weathervane Books, 1967), p.151-152
  4. ^ Christopher Gray. "STREETSCAPES: A Chapel the City Fought to Save" New York Times (April 27, 2008).

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