By Carter B. Horsley
Like the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest
on Fifth Avenue at 90th Street, this impressive church conveys
a strong sense of monumentality in a bulky, towerless form. Both
are solid architectural bastions.
Designed by Ralph Adams Cram and completed
in 1933, the building, which is very close to the midtown office
district, this building has a lovely façade of yellow and
beige stone. In his fine book, "Glory in Gotham, Manhattan's
Houses of Worship, A Guide to Their History, Architecture and
Legacy," a City & Country Guide published in 2001 (see
The City Review article), David
W. Dunlap notes that the architect, who was "a master of
Gothic," here "used a robust Romanesque-Byzantine palette,
explaining that the 'Protestant congregation was averse to Medieval
Catholicism both by inheritance and doctrine."
In their excellent book, "The A. I. A.
Guide to New York City Architecture, Fourth Edition" (Three
Rivers Press, 2000) (see The City Review
article), Elliot Willensky and Norval White provide the following
"A church designed to appear aged: the
randome limestone and brick is intended to look like a sophisticated
patch job centuries old. Similarly, the marble and granite columns
appear to be, in the Romanesque and Byzantine manner, pillage
from Roman temples. Handsome, and of impeccable taste, it is an
archaeological and eclectic stage set for well-to-do parishioners.
Look at the mosaic ceiling, especially when lit by blue bulbs."
The church was formed by the merger of the
Madison Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church and the 61st Street
Methodist Episcopal Church and for decades was well-known as the
church of the Rev. Ralph Washington Sockman whose NBC radio program,
"National Radio Pulpit," was broadcast from 1928 to
In late 2005, the church sold its air rights
to the Zeckendorf Organization, which planned to build a luxury
condominium apartment tower on the mid-block between Madison and
Avenues. (12/20/05) The plan, however, ran into some controversy
when members of the Grolier Club just to the west hesitated over
the sale of its air rights for the project. (2/20/06)