View Full Version : The Riverside Church - 490 Riverside Drive - by Allen, Pelton and Collens

April 27th, 2003, 08:12 AM
Architect: Henry C. Pelton, Allen & Collens, and Burnham Hoyt

Style: Neo-Gothic

Year: 1930

Description: The 392 feet tower contains 72 bells. Members of the church included John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who helped financed church. The church is located in the quiete neighborhood of Morningside Heights, just west of Harlem.

























From the 125 street station in Harlem:

April 27th, 2003, 01:25 PM
The book by E. Nash, Manhattan Skyscrapers, says the tower is an office building, which I find hard to believe.
Who would work in a church ? Where are the windows ?

April 27th, 2003, 06:13 PM
Fabb: The church occupies the space.

Riverside church is nondenominational, unusual for such grand architecture. I believe it was initially funded by the Baptist Churches of America, and then too its hard to believe.

April 28th, 2003, 10:06 AM
The winged lion in one of the photos is full of needles for some reason. *Is that so pigeons don't land on it?

April 28th, 2003, 11:38 AM
Yes. How cruel.

Lightning Homer
April 28th, 2003, 02:30 PM
Great, great !
I love Neo-Gothic, it looks so big and beautyfull !
If one loves pigeons that much, I suggest that we remove the needles and let him care for those souvenirs the're used to let behind. One have to be not only a friend of the birds but also a good alpinist, doh !

April 28th, 2003, 04:48 PM
Pigeons are winged rats. But not nearly as intelligent.
Winged rats on a winged lion ? I don't think so.

By the way, I think the winged lion is called a Griffon.

Fabb: The church occupies the space.

Are you sure, Stern ?
I visited the church a few years ago, and I think the tower was not part of it.
I'm not positive though.

April 28th, 2003, 05:06 PM
The church does occupy it - offices as stated previously. *There's a roof-top observation deck on the tower open to the public. *There are meeting rooms also and some exhibition spaces. *All church related. *(If there's a sign that says "observation closed" - got to the tower elevators and head all the way up). *A spectacular and new perspective on New York City.

(Edited by BrooklynRider at 10:21 am on April 29, 2003)

April 28th, 2003, 05:19 PM
I remember that we were asked to sign our names in a book before visiting the church.
Too bad we didn't go to the observation deck.

April 28th, 2003, 05:45 PM
Are you sure, Stern ?
I visited the church a few years ago, and I think the tower was not part of it.
I'm not positive though.

I was there Easter Sunday... I should make church going more a habit, if for the architecture alone ;)

(Edited by Stern at 5:46 pm on April 28, 2003)

April 28th, 2003, 09:27 PM
"A spectacular and new perspective on Brooklyn"?

The "winged rats" can poop on all you heartless pigeon-haters as far as I'm concerned.

April 29th, 2003, 01:41 AM
Pigeon-haters ?
How you came to that is a mystery to me. We love them. But it's hazardous for them to sit on a lion.

Never mind.
They interior of the church was inspired by the cathedral of Chartres, the most beautiful in France.

Lightning Homer
April 29th, 2003, 07:11 AM
lol, Chris :)
Yep, they tried a lot on me, but they missed everytime, he-he !
I think that must be one of the good reasons why our grand were used to wear a hat...

April 29th, 2003, 10:20 AM
Quote: from Christian Wieland on 9:27 pm on April 28, 2003
"A spectacular and new perspective on Brooklyn"?

Not sure where my head was on that one - but hopefully you all are working with me...

April 29th, 2003, 05:07 PM
It is a great building. It's the one of the only high-rise buildings I can see from my home in East Harlem looking Uptown. It's exactly the reason I'm always complaining about development Uptown.

"Bring some skyscrapers Uptown!"From DominicanoNYC

April 30th, 2003, 05:00 PM
That would be tragic if it were drowned out by other taller buildings.

April 30th, 2003, 05:16 PM
Tragic ?
I don't think so.
it would look like St Patrick next to the Olympic Tower.

January 20th, 2008, 06:10 AM
Streetscapes | Riverside Church
Traditional Trappings for a Modern Mission

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2008/01/20/realestate/20scap-600a.jpg Left, Museum of the City of New York; Right, Tina Fineberg for The New York Times
GOTHIC IN INSPIRATION Left, Riverside Church’s tower under construction in a photograph taken in 1929 or '30. Since last year the church has been cloaked in scaffolding, as Howard L. Zimmerman Associates and Beyer Blinder Belle oversee $4 million in repairs to the limestone, especially the highest sections that are most exposed to the weather.

By CHRISTOPHER GRAY (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=CHRISTOPHER GRAY&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=CHRISTOPHER GRAY&inline=nyt-per)

Published: January 20, 2008

RIVERSIDE CHURCH, completed in 1930 at 122nd Street and Riverside Drive, embodied modern religious thought but was clad in 13th-century French Gothic. Its massive tower is now ringed by construction scaffolding, as restoration crews go piece by piece, inspecting and repairing the limestone.

In 1926, Park Avenue Baptist Church, which occupied a sanctuary at 64th Street that was only four years old, announced plans to build a new church overlooking the Hudson River, close to Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/c/columbia_university/index.html?inline=nyt-org).

Backed by John D. Rockfeller Jr., the church sent its architects, Henry Pelton and Charles Collens, on a 21-day trip through France and Spain to study cathedral design. The pastor, Harry Emerson Fosdick, had accepted his position in 1925 on the condition that a brand-new church, open to all Christians, be built.

The architects’ design for a 22-story tower was adapted after one of the pair at Chartres, soaring above a 200-foot-long sanctuary seating about 2,400 people. The tower was not simply symbolic; it held offices, social rooms, classrooms, a bowling alley, a theater and similar spaces.

In September 1928, as the steelwork on the tower was being raised, the church announced a name change consistent with its ecumenical mission: Riverside Baptist Church would become known simply as Riverside Church.

Three months later, 100,000 people watched as a nighttime fire turned the interior of the half-completed building into a furnace and sent a tower of flames into the sky. The nave had been just a shell; what burned was the network of wooden scaffolding around the interior walls. Chunks of stone popped off the face, and fires spread to adjacent buildings. Sparks even ignited a Christmas tree in a sixth-floor apartment at 99 Claremont Avenue, adjacent to the church. (The apartment house has since been torn down.)

Construction eventually resumed, and when Riverside Church opened in 1930, The New York Times said that its tower was the highest of any church in America, 392 feet. In his opening sermon, Fosdick said that if Jesus were to return, he would disapprove of the frequent wrangling over policies and rituals that separated the different Christian denominations.

The huge Gothic-style tower arrived at an unusual time for American architecture, when the purity of European Modernism began to make the historic styles seem like bad habits. Writing in The New Yorker in 1930, George Chappell found fault with the “scrambled Gothic” design and described the tower as “impressive in size, yet strangely lacking in majesty.” But Mr. Chappell admired the restraint and simple proportions of the great nave.

In a 1934 piece in The New Yorker, Lewis Mumford was tougher, calling it one of several particularly leaden “dead colossi,” which also included the Federal Courthouse in Lower Manhattan (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/classifieds/realestate/locations/newyork/newyorkcity/manhattan/?inline=nyt-geo).

A overflow crowd of more than 2,500 people had the opportunity to ponder architectural tastes themselves when they came to the church in 1932 for the wedding of Blanchette Hooker and John D. Rockefeller III (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/r/john_d_iii_rockefeller/index.html?inline=nyt-per), whose brother Nelson was best man.

Since last year, the Gothic tower has been cloaked in scaffolding, as Howard L. Zimmerman Associates and Beyer Blinder Belle oversee $4 million in repairs to the limestone, especially the highest sections that are most exposed to the weather.

Edward Pon, a project architect for the Zimmerman firm, said the wind limits the amount of decking and netting that can be in place at any one time — too much wind on too much material could be unsafe. As it is, giant swaths of netting on the lower stories facing Riverside Drive flap in the breeze like galloping black giraffes.

Usually such enclosures detract from architectural aesthetics, but it this case the spidery steel network and thick wooden decking soften the wind-swept austerity of what has always been a chilly, formal monument.

Riverside Church is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; on Sundays, after the main service at 10:45 a.m., the church remains open until 4:40 p.m.

Although tours are available (information is on the church’s Web site, theriversidechurchny.org (http://theriversidechurchny.org/); click on “About Us”), in the middle of the week the giant nave is often empty, and a visitor can explore undisturbed.

On their 1926 European trip, the architects particularly admired the low, wide nave of the cathedral at Girona, Spain (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/great-homes-and-destinations/destinations/europe/index.html?inline=nyt-geo), and so Riverside has a roomier quality than lofty English-style cathedrals. Meandering around the curving stone staircases can seem like stumbling across some magnificent undiscovered French church not listed in any guidebook.

That is especially true of Christ Chapel, hidden unless you look for it. It is a breathtaking private 11th-century-style oblong of cream-colored sandstone with small, high windows, a tiny secret counterpoint to one of New York’s biggest churches.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

January 20th, 2008, 12:04 PM
I attended a concert here in 2002 (rock concert, not spiritual). Beautiful place and made for an interesting experience. The sound wasn't good though.

January 20th, 2008, 12:26 PM
Is there a site that details all New York churches/ religious buildings.

January 20th, 2008, 12:51 PM
^^ Or a site that lists the ones slated for destruction?

Even if we heathen New Yorkers don't attend Mass as much as we should, churches generally add more beauty, serenity and history to an area than almost any other structures, and it's alarming how quickly they're being destroyed here.

Moscow, which on the whole is one of the uglier and more unpleasant cities I know, destroyed almost all its churches in a few waves, including right after the Revolution and in the 1960s, replacing them with structures that one could only call ... Soviet.

Now, the city (and country) are scrambling to build as many fake, old-timey-looking churches as possible, both because people now want to attend church and because there is some realization dawning that Orthodox churches give Russia a certain sense of place.

Boston, on the other hand, seems better at adapting old churches for new commercial/residential functions, something I only wish New York could do. Oddly, New York comes off as Soviet in its church-destroying, which is done for purely capitalist purposes...

January 20th, 2008, 12:52 PM
And the disembowelment of St Ann's in the East Village does NOT count as "creative adaptation." It's a crime scene.

January 20th, 2008, 01:01 PM
^ Agreed. Appallingly crass.

May 18th, 2010, 10:25 PM
INLINE6CHILLIN (http://www.flickr.com/photos/39971042@N02/4618123268/sizes/l/)

July 2nd, 2010, 10:29 PM
They finally removed the scaffolding and have been lighting it up at night.
Truly beautiful.