St. Michael's Episcopal Church (Manhattan)

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St. Michael's Church
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St. Michael's Episcopal Church (Manhattan) is located in New York City
St. Michael's Episcopal Church (Manhattan)
St. Michael's Episcopal Church (Manhattan) is located in New York
St. Michael's Episcopal Church (Manhattan)
St. Michael's Episcopal Church (Manhattan) is located in the US
St. Michael's Episcopal Church (Manhattan)
Location225 W. 99th St., New York, New York
Coordinates40°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
ArchitectRobert W. Gibson
Architectural styleRomanesque Revival, Renaissance Revival
NRHP reference #96001354[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPNovember 15, 1996
Designated NYCLApril 12, 2016

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]

On April 12, 2016, the church, parish house and rectory were designated landmarks by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.[4]


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.[5] In the 1850s the Rector's wife Mrs. William Richmond transformed the John McVickar 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".[6]

The third and current building, influenced by the Romanesque and Byzantine styles and designed to seat 1,500 people, was dedicated in December, 1891.[7] The church stands on ground formerly used as a cemetery. In building the church it was decided not to disturb it. Among those still buried there are the Rev. Mr. Richmond, the first rector of the church. The last internment took place in 1872.[8][9] The present church was erected after an elevated railroad was built on Columbus Avenue absorbing the rural district into the growing city.[7][10][11]

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]

The church was designed by architect Robert W. Gibson.[7]

St. Michael's is noted for the many works of art created for the congregation by Tiffany studios.[12] 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.[13] 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.[13] The windows were restored in 1990.[11]

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 an array of colors drawn from the windows and mosaics.[7][11]

The square, Romanesque bell tower rises 160 feet.[11]


A Rudolf von Beckerath organ was installed in 1967.[7]


For most of its existence, and continuing today, St. Michael's has influenced 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.[14]

In the 1980s the congregation had dwindled to thirty, but by 1987 it was up to three hundred,[15] 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.[14]

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.[14]

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.[16]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. ^ Salwen, p.43
  3. ^ Rasenberger, Jim (June 17, 2007) "High Anxiety" The New York Times
  4. ^ Danza, Cynthia and Percival, Marianne S. (April 12, 2016) "St. Michael's Episcopal Church, Parish House and Rectory Designation Report" New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
  5. ^ Salwen, p.47.
  6. ^ Quoted in Salwen, pp.47 ff.
  7. ^ a b c d e 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.
  8. ^ "For a Handsome New Church". The New York Times. New York. 1890-09-30. Retrieved 2017-07-01.
  9. ^ "Some Old Grave-Yards". The New York Times. New York. 1879-05-18. Retrieved 2017-07-01.
  10. ^ "Architecture", St. Michael's Church, Worshiping & Serving since 1807. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  11. ^ a b c d Gray, Christopher (February 5, 1989) "St. Michael's Episcopal Church; Restoration, and Perhaps A Striking Tiffany-Style Finish", The New York Times
  12. ^ Duncan, Alastair (1980) Tiffany Windows New York: Simon and Schuster. p.135. ISBN 0671249517.
  13. ^ a b "Tiffany Windows", St. Michael’s Church website. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  14. ^ a b c Terepka, Jean Ballard “History: St. Michael’s Church: Two Centuries and Onward”, St. Michael’s Church website. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  15. ^ Salwen, p.289
  16. ^ 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.


  • Salwen, Peter (1989) Upper West Side Story: A History and Guide New York: Abbeville Press. ISBN 1558594299.

External links[edit]