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From Abyssinian to Zion

From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan's Houses of Worship

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    From Abyssinian to Zion
    Book Description:

    From modest chapels to majestic cathedrals, and historic synagogues to modern mosques and Buddhist temples: this photo-filled, pocket-size guidebook presents 1,079 houses of worship in Manhattan and lays to rest the common perception that skyscrapers, bridges, and parks are the only defining moments in the architectural history of New York City. With his exhaustive research of the city's religious buildings, David W. Dunlap has revealed (and at times unearthed) an urban history that reinforces New York as a truly vibrant center of community and cultural diversity.

    Published in conjunction with a New-York Historical Society exhibition, From Abyssinian to Zion is a sometimes quirky, always intriguing journey of discovery for tourists as well as native New Yorkers. Which popular pizzeria occupies the site of the cradle of the Christian and Missionary Alliance movement, the Gospel Tabernacle? And where can you find the only house of worship in Manhattan built during the reign of Caesar Augustus? Arranged alphabetically, this handy guide chronicles both extant and historical structures and includes

    • 650 original photographs and 250 photographs from rarely seen archives

    • 24 detailed neighborhood maps, pinpointing the location of each building

    • concise listings, with histories of the congregations, descriptions of architecture, and accounts of prominent priests, ministers, rabbis, imams, and leading personalities in many of the congregations

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50072-2
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History, Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Paul Goldberger

    David W. Dunlap has proved more effectively than even Henry Codman Potter, Stephen S. Wise, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Norman Vincent Peale, Felix Adler, Paul Moore Jr., John Cardinal O’Connor, and Reverend Ike ever managed to do that New York is not a godless city. Each of these people held sway over one house of worship. Dunlap gives us more than a thousand, and in so doing he makes it clear that religious buildings are as much a part of the fabric of New York as brownstones. In From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan’s Houses of Worship, Dunlap...

    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    David W. Dunlap
    (pp. xix-xxiii)
  6. Neighborhood Maps
    (pp. None)
    (pp. 1-4)

    Manhattan being Manhattan, there was a decent inn here before there was a good church. But it was the city’s secularity, paradoxically, that quickly made it a fertile religious ground, as the British governor reported in 1678: “There are Religions of all sorts, one Church of England, several Presbiterians and Independents, Quakers, and Anabaptists of severall sects, some Jews.” Because New York’s leaders most prized commercial success, rather than religious orthodoxy, some degree of tolerance was almost always assured. Why expel people who could help in the broader goal of making the town prosperous?

    Not until after the Revolution, however,...

  8. A
    (pp. 5-18)

    Abyssinian Baptist Church. They were only looking for a place to worship. Several traders from Abyssinia—now Ethiopia—came to the First Baptist Church on Gold Street one Sunday in 1808. They were ushered to the slave loft. “Wealthy, educated world travelers, proud human beings, with a well-defined philosophy of religion that matched that of anyone in that auditorium, they resented this and walked out in protest,” the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. wrote. Eighteen black members of First Baptist joined their boycott, forming the nucleus of Abyssinian Baptist Church, founded in 1809.

    They worshiped first at 44 Anthony Street...

  9. B
    (pp. 19-34)

    Baptist Tabernacle. The words BAPTIST TABERNACLE can still be seen over a grand doorway at Warren Hall, 168 Second Avenue [●E38], testament to the origins of this 15-story building as a Skyscraper Church, designed by Emery Roth. It occupies the site [E37] of a Gothic sanctuary built in 1850 by the Baptist Tabernacle, founded in 1839. The church, also known as Second Avenue Baptist, shared the block with the New-York Historical Society. The new sanctuary was built from 1928 to 1930 and played a polyglot role in the 1940s, as home to Italian, Polish, and Russian Baptist congregations. It is...

  10. C
    (pp. 35-52)

    Calvario, Iglesia Cristiana el. Calvary Christian Church, at 409 West 47th Street [●I23], is a reminder of Clinton’s disappearing diversity.

    Calvary and St. George’s Church. Rather than compete for dwindling resources and prospective parishioners, three nearby Episcopal churches, each a landmark in its own right, merged in 1976 to form Calvary, Holy Communion, and St. George’s Church.

    St. George’s was founded in 1749 as a chapel of Trinity Church. Its sanctuary on Beekman Street [A8] was the site of the first commencement for King’s College, now Columbia University. In 1811, St. George’s became a freestanding parish. The church burned in...

  11. D
    (pp. 53-56)

    Darech Amuno, Congregation. Congregation Darech Amuno (Way of Faith), organized in 1838, seemed fated to wander: Greene Street, Sixth Avenue, Seventh Avenue, Bleecker Street, West 4th Street. Finally, it dedicated this Neoclassical, yellow-brick sanctuary at 53 Charles Street [●D12✰] in 1917. Designed by Sommerfeld & Steckler, it was an alteration of an older building.

    De Witt Reformed Church. A breath of fresh ecclesiastical air from the architect Edgar Tafel, the DeWitt Reformed Church, at 280 Rivington Street [●F56], seems to have been built around a rough-hewn lumber cross. De Witt was developed by the New York City Mission...

  12. E
    (pp. 57-68)

    East Dhyana Temple. The entrance to the East Dhyana Temple, at 83 Division Street [●C26], affiliated with the Ch’an school of Buddhism, is marked by upswept eaves supported on two large columns. The large character over the door that looks like a cross on top and vaguely like a capital J on the bottom, separated by a horizontal bar, is the word szu, for “Buddhist temple.”

    East End Temple. To serve families in Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town, East End Temple, a Reform congregation also known as El Emet (God of Truth), was founded in 1948. In 1957, it...

  13. F
    (pp. 69-82)

    Faith Mission Christian Fellowship. A landmark of both the labor and civil-rights movements, the former Imperial Lodge No. 127 of the Improved Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks of the World, at 160 West 129th Street [●Q17], which opened in 1924, was the work of Vertner Woodson Tandy, one of America’s leading—and few—black architects. In 1925, A. Philip Randolph convened 500 workers here to form the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. In the 1930s, it was the home of St. Ambrose Episcopal Church. And the hall was also the scene of one of the grand drag balls chronicled...

  14. G
    (pp. 83-93)

    Garment Center Synagogue. The Orthodox Congregation Knesset Israel (Assembly of Israel) was founded by Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Friedman in 1930 to serve garment workers. By the early 1960s, it held 15 services daily over a Seventh Avenue luncheonette. Its current sanctuary, at 205 West 40th Street [●I46], was designed by William Lescaze and built in 1965. The congregation shares the building with the David Schwartz Fashion Education Center of the Parsons School of Design.

    Gates of Israel, Congregation. Of the neo-Georgian synagogues, Temple Israel of Washington Heights, at 560 West 185th Street [●V11], is the most imposing. Its columns support...

  15. H
    (pp. 94-107)

    Habonim, Congregation. In 1939, a year after Kristallnacht, as the world was plunging into war, Rabbi Hugo Hahn and a group of refugees from Germany founded the Conservative Congregation Habonim (Builders). Its name was meant to suggest the “promise and challenge of the future as well as the rich foundation of the past.” In 1956/1957, the Builders built their synagogue at 44 West 66th Street [●K23], by Stanley Prowler and Frank Faillance. It is a cube rotated 45 degrees and set within another cube. On the facade are the words UNLESS THE LORD BUILDS THE HOUSE, THOSE WHO BUILD IT...

  16. I
    (pp. 108-114)

    Immaculate Conception, Church of the. That churches and synagogues were once the heart of the social-service infrastructure is evidenced by late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century buildings. No sanctuary was complete without classrooms, clubrooms, library, kitchen, and gymnasium. But few of these welfare complexes rivaled this colony of French Gothic buildings at 406 East 14th Street [●F1★], constructed from 1894 to 1896 as a mission chapel of Grace Church. The architect, J. Stewart Barney of Barney & Chapman, was almost simultaneously working on another such complex, for the Church of the Holy Trinity on East 88th Street. (The openwork towers are)...

  17. J
    (pp. 115-119)

    James Chapel. Two finial-crested towers rise over the Union Theological Seminary. The Brown Memorial Tower, on Broadway, has no liturgical function, but the 85-foot James Tower, on Claremont Avenue [●Q39★], denotes this grand chapel. Union, a nondenominational graduate school, was founded in 1836 in Greenwich Village. It moved to Lenox Hill and then to Morning-side Heights, where this complex was constructed from 1908 to 1910, designed by Allen & Collens of Boston, which overshadowed its own work here with the later Riverside Church. James Chapel honors Daniel Willis James, a director of the seminary for 40 years. He...

  18. K
    (pp. 120-126)

    Kadisha Anshei Podolsk, Chevra. A blend of spiritualism and commerce, this former synagogue at 121 Ludlow Street [●C6]—once home to Congregation Kadisha Anshei Podolsk (Burial Society of the People of Podolsk, Ukraine)—had a ground-floor storefront.

    Kalvarier Shul. See Sung Tak Buddhist Association

    Kehila Kedosha Janina, Congregation. After the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, a ship bearing Jewish prisoners to Rome was forced ashore by a storm. The Jews made their way to Ioannina in Greece, where they developed a rite called the Romaniote minhag. Ioannian immigrants began arriving in New York in the early twentieth century...

  19. L
    (pp. 127-132)

    Labor Temple. Four blocks from Union Square is a lesser known working-class landmark: the Labor Temple, New York’s most radical church. “It is a well recognized fact that labor has been holding aloof from the Church for some years,” said an officer of the Presbyterian Home Mission Board in 1910, when the temple was founded, “perhaps feeling that for it the Church was messageless, and possibly because the men mistrusted the forces back of certain members of the ministry.” The founder of the Labor Temple, the Rev. Charles L. Stelze, said its brotherhood would be “entirely unsectarian,” welcoming Jews, Catholics,...

  20. M
    (pp. 133-154)

    Macedonia, Iglesia Pentecostal. Reflecting the transformation of East Harlem, this Romanesque sanctuary at 340 East 106th Street [●P18] was built as the Presbyterian Church of the Ascension, an Italian mission, in 1912/1913. The architects were Ludlow & Peabody. Seventy years later, it was acquired by the Macedonia Church of the Assemblies of God, founded in 1939 by the Rev. José Belén Hernández of Puerto Rico, at East 104th Street and Lexington Avenue. In the 1960s and 1970s, Macedonia met at 15 East 111th Street [P2], the former Laura Franklin Free Hospital for Children, by Bernstein & Bernstein, built in 1905,...

  21. N
    (pp. 155-160)

    Nachlath Zvi, Congregation. Most Harlem synagogues wound up as churches, but this was a church that wound up as a synagogue. The Methodist Episcopal Church of the Saviour was founded in 1870 and worshiped at 65 East 109th Street [P10] from 1881 until 1905, when it moved to 1791 Lexington Avenue, now the Primera Iglesia Metodista Unida Hispana. Congregation Nachlath Zvi (Inheritance of Zvi [Israel]) was founded in 1909 and was here for several decades.

    Nativity, Church of the. The Roman Catholic Church of the Nativity, at 44 Second Avenue [●E65], looks more like a firehouse than a house of...

  22. O
    (pp. 161-170)

    Ohab Zedek, Congregation. It is not sight but sound that many associate with this Orthodox congregation: the brilliant coloratura of Josef (Yossele) Rosenblatt, king of the cantors and Ohab Zedek’s hazzan in the early twentieth century. Incorporated in 1873 as the First Hungarian Congregation Ohab Zedek (Love of Righteousness), it built a synagogue at 70 Columbia Street [F54] in 1881 that was later used by Congregation Ahavath Acheim Anshe Ungarn, and then moved to Anshe Chesed’s Gothic synagogue at 172 Norfolk Street [●F45★]. In 1906/1907, Ohab Zedek built a monumental structure at 18 West 116th Street [●R65], by...

  23. P-Q
    (pp. 171-177)

    Padre, Hijo y Espíritu Santo, Iglesia Pentecostal. Formerly a plumbing shop, 2141 Amsterdam Avenue [●U2] is now the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost Pentecostal Church.

    Paradise Baptist Church. Bold and darkly handsome, with a bravura Modernist sweep, 23 Fort Washington Avenue [●U7] is in its third life. Formerly the Costello Theater, it was turned into a synagogue in 1949 by Fritz Nathan for Congregation Ahavath Torah, which merged in 1965 with Tikvoh Chadoshoh. More recently, this has been the Paradise Baptist Church, founded in 1925 by the Rev. Henry W. Stanley. Although the large circular window remains, the menorah pattern...

  24. R
    (pp. 178-186)

    Radio Church of God. See God, Church of

    Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center. In a row house at 17 East 94th Street [●P34☆], built in 1892 to designs by Cleverdon & Putzel, is a branch of the Ramakrishna Order of India, based on the System of Vedanta, a form of Hinduism explained and demonstrated by Sri Ramakrishna in the nineteenth century and by his disciple Swami Vivekananda. In 1933, Swami Nikhilananda founded the New York center, which acquired this property six years later. The houses at 17 and 19 East 94th Street are being renovated and combined for use by the...

  25. St.
    (pp. 187-250)

    St. Agnes, Chapel of. See Trinity Church

    St. Agnes, Church of. One of Manhattan’s newest houses of worship is one of its most traditional in design, befitting the conservative pastoral and political role of a Roman Catholic parish where the Latin Mass is celebrated. The Church of St. Agnes was founded in 1873 to serve Irish laborers at Grand Central Depot. Its first church, at 141 East 43rd Street [J42], was designed by Lawrence J. O’Connor and built from 1873 to 1877. Eamon de Valera, later prime minister and president of Ireland, was baptized here in 1882. Archbishop Fulton J....

  26. S
    (pp. 251-267)

    Sacred Heart of Jesus, Church of the. A bit out of the way, at 457 West 51st Street [●I13], is one of the largest sanctuaries in midtown. The parish was formed in 1876 and converted the Plymouth Baptist Church on West 51st Street [I12]. In 1884, it built a huge Victorian Romanesque church by Napoleon Le Brun & Sons. The Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was, in 1965, the first in the diocese to be redesigned under the liturgical requirements of the Second Vatican Council. It oversees the Church of St. Benedict the Moor and the chapel in...

  27. T
    (pp. 268-281)

    Talmud Torah Adereth El, Congregation. The Orthodox Congregation Talmud Torah Adereth El (Glory of God, Learners of Torah) traces itself to 1857 and moved to its present site about 10 years later. The current synagogue, at 135 East 29th Street [●H22], resulted from a 1945 renovation by Gustave Iser, followed by a 1994 renovation that left little of the facade except the Star of David window.

    Talmud Torah Anshei Marovi, Chevra. See Old Broadway Synagogue

    Temple Beth El. See Beth El, Congregation

    Temple Emanu-El. See Emanu-El, Congregation

    Temple Israel. Most Jewish congregations of the Harlem diaspora moved into that neighborhood....

  28. U-V
    (pp. 282-288)

    Ulanower, Congregation. The synagogue at 630 East 5th Street [F27] served Congregation B’nai Sholom and then Congregation Ulanower, founded in 1906.

    Unification Church. The denomination founded in 1954 by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, acquired the former Columbia University Club, at 4 West 43rd Street [●J47], in 1974.

    Union Baptist Church. Like other black churches, Union Baptist, founded in 1898 by the Rev. George H. Sims Sr., testifies in its origins to the days when Lincoln Square was an African-American community. After a brief spell at 223 West 67th Street...

  29. W
    (pp. 289-294)

    Wadsworth Avenue Baptist Church. A rocket burst of Georgian energy, complete with a slender steeple, the Wadsworth Avenue Baptist Church occupies a dramatic bluff-side setting at 210 Wadsworth Avenue [●V13]. Plans were filed in 1924 by Ludlow & Peabody. The congregation moved here from 124 Wadsworth Avenue [V21], which later became the Washington Heights Hellenic Church of St. Spyridon.

    Wall Street Synagogue. The Wall Street Synagogue is an Orthodox congregation founded in 1929. On the roof of its sanctuary, at 47 Beekman Street [●A7], it built a 12-by 20-foot replica of the humble cabin that housed Congregation Shearith Israel, on...

  30. Y-Z
    (pp. 295-298)

    Yorkville Synagogue. The Yorkville Synagogue, at 352 East 78th Street [●N42], home to the Orthodox Congregation B’nai Jehudah (Sons of Judah), is ornamented only by a Decalogue. Plans were filed in 1925 by Benjamin H. Whinston.

    Young Israel of Fifth Avenue. The inscription LABOR OMNIA VINCIT over the sanctuary window at 3 West 16th Street [●E4], now Young Israel of Fifth Avenue, reflects the fact that this little 1920 building, designed by Charles H. Higgins, once housed the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, Misses and Children’s Dressmakers Union, Waterproof Garment Workers Union, White Goods Workers Union, and radio station WEVD...

    (pp. 299-336)
    (pp. 337-340)
  33. INDEX
    (pp. 341-391)