Churches and Cathedrals of Manhattan, New York City - 4

Personal notes and information gleaned following a visit October 2003, and features only the churches which I discovered during my seven days in New York. The churches face in all sorts of directions, the descriptions that follow therefore have ritual directions which assumes the high altar is at the east end of the building. The churches are all Roman Catholic, unless otherwise mentioned, and are featured in the order I visited them.

Cathedral of St Sava (Serbian Orthodox) ( W25th St)

1852-55 by Richard Upjohn, built originally as a chapel of ease to Trinity church, Wall Street. Called "Trinity Chapel", its future was already under threat in 1915. However it was to be another 27 years before the church was sold to the Orthodox church, November 1942. It was reconsecrated in 1944. A bomb explosion in 1973 (which targetted the Communist Party's HQ on W26th St) destroyed the original stained glass in the apse which enabled the congregation to insert windows to Orthodox saints. A carved oak iconostasis was inserted in 1961, and icons painted up to 1968.

I found the cathedral locked but with a flea market in progress alongside.

First Presbyterian Church (5th Ave, W11 & 12th Sts)

First Presbyterian Church was founded in 1716, and opened their first building on Wall Street in 1719. It was closed for seven years during the Revolution, the church beng used as a barracks by the British. When the congregation returned they found their church in ruins. For some years they used a chapel of Trinity church for worship until their new church was opened in 1811. Destroyed again by a fire, rebuilt again only to be destroyed in the 1835 Great Fire of New York. The area was rebuilt for Commerce and the church bought a new plot on 5th Avenue in the village of Greenwich.
The new church was built to the designs of Joseph C Wells and opened in 1846. It is modelled apparently on the church of St Saviour, Larkhall in Bath, England (pictured, left). Like that church it has since been extended, a S transept in 1893 (McKim, Mead & White) and a chancel in 1919. The church house by Edgar Tafel alongside W12th St followed in 1960.

I found the church locked which it usually is, being open M W F 1200-1245 as well as Sundays 1100-1230.


Ascension (Episcopal) (5th Avenue, W10th St)

The church was founded at Canal Street and was consecrated in 1829. It was destroyed by fire in 1839. Quickly the decision was made to rebuild on a new site, the current one in 5th Ave. The foundation stone was laid in 1840 and the church opened in November 1841. The architect was Richard Upjohn, this being one of his first churches. The interior (not seen) was remodelled by Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White 1885-89 when the side galleries were removed. Large mural by John La Farge of the Ascension installed at the same time.

The church is not usually open, in complete contrast to the period from 1929 to 1966 when the main doors were never locked! It is opened for an hour at midday, and again in the early evening for an hour.

  • Website (with history and some details of the interior and fittings, glass etc.)
  Ascension and First Presbyterian on Fifth Avenue.  


page updated 27th March 2005