Skip to main content

OHNY Weekend, Part II: Sacred Institutions of the Upper West Side

Churches and synagogues constituted the vast majority of the Upper West Side sites open for visits during this weekend's 9th Annual OHNY (openhousenewyork). While I didn't have the time to visit the ones open only on Sunday, the three sites of worship I visited on Saturday - First Baptist Church, the Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew, and St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church - revealed a spiritual side of New York City that many visitors never see (with a few notable exceptions such as St. Patrick's Cathedral, Trinity Church, and Cathedral of St. John the Divine).

Walking to the churches involved passing by several well-known Upper West Side landmarks, certainly not on the OHNY list - for they lack architectural distinction - but, for sure, worshipped and glorified for more secular (and delicious) reasons.

Fairway
Not on the OHNY list but an important institution in its own right - Fairway on Broadway at 74th Street.


For this moveable self-guided walking feast, plan on starting at the subway station at Verdi Square. On Saturday, when I emerged from the subway and headed north on Broadway, I was immediately tempted by a food cart from Screme Gelato, the first of many culinary wonders on my sacred tour. The more powerful food magnets were still ahead - Fairway on Broadway at 74th Street, "like no other market" as the store describes itself, an institution at this location since the 1930s, and Zabar's, the sprawling gourmet emporium at Broadway and W. 80th St. By all means, give in, for these stores are a vibrant part of New York's spiritual life, providing bounty for many a celebration.

Zabar's
Another sacred location for some - Zabar's


And now, let's visit three church buildings, official sites of the 9th annual OHNY weekend:

• First Baptist Church, 265 W 79th St and Broadway
Architect: George Keister; 1890-1893

First Baptist Church
First Baptist Church, 265 W 79th St and Broadway, exterior

First Baptist Church
First Baptist Church, 265 W 79th St and Broadway, interior


This fascinating church building at the corner of Broadway at 79th Street attracts attention for its eclectic and theatrical Italian Romanesque design. A surprising challenge to the conventional notions of a Baptist church, the structure features fanciful classical spires and a large rose window above the entrance. The interior is more subdued, infused with warm sunlight streaming through the windows. After seeing the sanctuary, I had a nice chat with a church pastor in the parish hall. The church had set out refreshments for visitors, and I thanked the pastor for the oatmeal raisin cookie.

First Baptist Church Website

• Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew, 263 W 86th St/ West End Ave
Architect: R.H. Robertson; 1895

Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew
Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew, 263 W. 86th St. and West End Avenue


Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew
Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew, interior

The architect R.H. Robertson made his mark on several New York buildings, drawing upon the influence of H.H. Richardson's Romanesque Revival style, especially earlier in his career. Robertson designed the neoclassical New York Savings Bank on Eighth Avenue in Chelsea, the Park Row Building downtown (15 Park Row), and the American Tract Society Building, also downtown at 150 Nassau Street. The church design here is a mix of Romanesque, Renaissance and Classical styles with a large octagonal tower and a sprawling interior, including a vast sanctuary and a surprising lecture hall-turned theater. While visiting, I was delighted to recall that I had actually visited the theater four years ago to see a friend's rough cut of his film in progress.

My tour guides were two parishioners who exuded upbeat enthusiasm for their parish home. I learned from them that this congregation affiliated with the United Methodist church shares the space with the Congregation B’Nai Jeshurun and the Sacred Center of New York. In the spirit of partnership, the banner hanging from the imposing arch of the shared sanctuary reads "HOW GOOD ITS IS WHEN BROTHERS AND SISTERS DWELL TOGETHER IN HARMONY." My guides also showed me the facility where the church operates a large emergency food program.

Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew Church website

• St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church, 552 West End Ave near 87th
Architect: Charles Coolidge Haight. 1901

St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church
St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church, 552 West End Ave near 87th

St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church
St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church


I only got a brief glimpse of the interior of St. Ignatius of Antioch - beautiful and dark, in that splendid English Gothic way. Above the High Altar, made of white marble, are statues of St. Mary and of St. Ignatius, and above these statues is a soaring stained glass window made in Birmingham, England. In addition, the Lady Chapel features a shrine designed by the American Gothic Revival architect Ralph Adams Cram (1863-19842). A little farther uptown, Cram had the extraordinary but heavy responsibility for designing the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

The reason that my visit was brief was that the church unfortunately did not get adequate staffing to keep it open for OHNY. A priest explained the situation to me and let me slip in to get a look. I didn't want to bother him as he was busy doing something else. He was standing outside the church and behind a table, pouring cups of water and handing out sack lunches to a line of hungry men.

Website for St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church

After my visits to these OHNY sites on the Upper West Side, I thought that this was the New York that few visitors get to see. And I wasn't thinking about grocery shopping or architecture.


View WOTBA OHNY Weekend in a larger map

Related posts:

• Read OHNY Weekend, Part I: A Lobby and Two Libraries in Midtown
• Read OHNY Weekend, Part III: A Ballroom, A Penthouse, and the Streets Between

Official site for openhousenewyork.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from October 15, 2011.









Popular posts from this blog

A New York Spring Calendar: Blooming Times and Seasonal Events

See the UPDATED 2018 CALENDAR HERE . Updated for 2017 . At this time of year, thoughts turn to spring. Let's spring forward to blooming times, the best locations for witnessing spring's beginnings, and springtime events in the big city. While the occasional snow could blow through the city, we're just weeks now from callery pears in bloom and opening day at the ballpark. In The Ramble, Central Park. mid-April Blooming Times •  Central Park Conservancy's website  lists blooming times within the park. During the month of March we begin to see crocus, daffodils, forsythia, snowdrops, witch-hazel, and hellebores. Species tulips will emerge in several places, but the Shakespeare Garden and Conservatory Garden are particularly good places to catch the beginning of Spring blooms. Central Park near E. 72nd St., saucer magnolia, typically end of March. •  Citywide Blooming Calendar from New York City Department of Parks & Recreation April is u

Circling the Met: A Springtime Visit to Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art

For a double feature of art and nature, the Metropolitan Museum of Art happens to be conveniently situated in Central Park. The front of the museum faces Fifth Avenue, its monumental wings stretching the blocks between E. 80th and E. 84th. The sides and the back of the museum are within easy walking distance of several prominent landmarks within the park.  Cedar Hill in Central Park Before a visit to the Met, consider taking a walk around the museum beginning on the southern side. A walk in the park can serve as a good preparation for a museum visit, because looking at or noticing the shapes and colors of the built and natural environment can enhance the art experience. Cedar Hill in Central Park The path south of the 79 Street Transverse leads to a scene at Cedar Hill very much like a panorama, with a vast wide-angle expanse of green grass and hill. Take the first path that leads back over 79th Street to the southern side of the museum. This path brilliantly disguises the motor traffi

Visiting New York City Again on the First Day of Spring

  The first weekend of spring in New York City coincided with bright and pleasing weather. Blue skies and Blue Jays, Bald Eagles and brightened crowds greeted the new season, at least in my world. It may be a cliché to say something like “Hope is in the air,” but contrast this spring of 2021 with the one a year ago, the new mood is palpable. Last year during early spring, the city shut down, in caution and crisis, but this season feels like a resurrection, albeit still cautious. The Met Steps on Fifth Avenue Last spring, when many of the city’s residents feared going outside, many are at least partially vaccinated now. The numbers rise every day. I have been fully vaccinated for a month now, so I used the occasion to revisit New York City. I have been out and about in my neighborhood, but in terms of the public New York City, the one celebrated in tourist books and on this website, I have not ventured there much at all.  A Bald Eagle grasps a fish in its talons outside the Met Cloister

The Lonesome Metropolis: A Walk from Grand Central Terminal to Rockefeller Center

As New York City reopens, why do the attractions of the great metropolis still look mostly deserted on a summer morning? A morning walk from Grand Central Terminal to Rockefeller Center sought to address this question. As it turns out, there are several adequate explanations. But for what happens next, there are no right answers. Grand Central Terminal, 9:40 am. Wednesday, July 22, 2020. Many neighborhoods outside of tourist New York are still buzzing along. While some residents of wealthier neighborhoods have largely decamped to mountain cabins, beach houses, and other second homes, the less wealthy have nowhere to go and may still be working. Just visit Washington Heights or Corona or Flatbush, and you’ll see sidewalks full of shoppers and summer evening street partiers. Those who fled the city remain only a fraction of the total population.   Grand Central Terminal, 9:40 am. Wednesday, July 22, 2020. Other renowned parts of the city such as City Hall and Brooklyn Bridge have been fr

Traversing Manhattan: An Afternoon Trip to the Battery and Back Again

  Wherein the vaccinated sightseer from Northern Manhattan travels to the southern end of the island by means of the express bus, the MTA subway, and the NYC ferry, with a little sauntering on foot In Battery Park, during the first blushes of spring in New York. View of One World Trade Center Residents of the far north and far south of Manhattan are the ones most keenly aware that they live on an island. The north end of the borough tapers to a relatively small area of land, bounded by the confluence of the Harlem and Hudson Rivers and the waters of Spuyten Duyvil. The land is hilly and green, with an old growth forest. The Battery sits on the southern end, a land where the geography is defined by the meeting of the East River, the Hudson River, and the vast New York Harbor. Manhattan stretches a little over 13 miles on the long side and just 2.3, more or less, at its width. On 42nd Street, approaching Grand Central Terminal. A resident of the hilly northern terrain may sometimes long

Early Voting in Washington Heights, and A Walk

Early voting for the 2020 federal election in New York began on Saturday, October 24 and continues through Sunday, November 1. The weekend was overcast and autumnal, with the bright yellows of fall on display. In New York City, thousands of New Yorkers turned out at the 88 early voting locations and waited in long lines, many stretching around the block.  A line to vote in Washington Heights. The line stretched around the block multiple times. Madison Square Garden in Manhattan and the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn were two of the well-known sites, but most voting places were typical neighborhood places such as schools, churches, and hospitals.   The scene outside the entrance to the Russ Berrie Medical Science Pavilion, one of the early voting locations in Washington Heights. In Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan, two early voting locations were within a short walk of one another, causing some confusion for voters emerging from the 168th Street subway station. The Columbia Universit

North Towards Autumn: A Day Trip on the Metro-North Hudson Line

The peak of autumn colors in New York City tends to fall sometime in the days following Halloween, but those anxiously waiting leaf change can simply travel north.  Near Beacon, a view of autumn colors from the Metro-North Hudson line One way to speed the fall season is to take the Hudson line of Metro-North north of the city and watch the greens fade to oranges and yellows and the occasional burst of red.  Autumn light in Hastings-on-Hudson Weekends during the month of October are ideal times to make the trip. The air tends to be crisp with bright blue skies, and the Hudson River glimmers like a mirror in the light of autumn. As the Hudson line hugs the river for much of the distance north, the train ride alone provides plenty of opportunities for sightseeing. Try to grab a window seat on the river side of the train car for views of the Palisades and the bends of the Hudson Highlands later in the trip.   Autumn leaves on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail in Hastings Still, October is a gr

Walking on Snow

❄ ❄ ❄ ❄ For the better part of this new year, snow has been either on the ground or in the forecast. In the city landscape, the streets look enchanting for a day or so and then devolve into a dirty mess. This sort of snow is unappealing for an invigorating walk. A snowy path in Inwood Hill Park The forest, on the other hand, has managed to stay enchanting throughout each bout of winter weather. The presence of owls and hawks, bright red cardinals and sweet chickadees, and brown squirrels and black squirrels transform the woodlands into a fairy tale. An Eastern Screech-Owl at home in the winter forest I've spent much of the whole pandemic year, going back to March 2020, in the woods of Inwood Hill Park in Northern Manhattan. While I have been accustomed to walking through the park in spring, summer, and autumn, I've never managed to engage with the deepest parts of the forest when a lot of snow was on the ground. Last winter there wasn't much snow anyway. Eastern Screech-Owl

The Most Beautiful Bridge in the World

Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier (1887 - 1965), the leading proponent of the International Style of modern architecture, visited NYC on several occasions in the 1930s and 1940s, and he made much to say about the skyscraper city. He didn’t think much of the faux tops of the tall buildings nor did he care about the haphazard city planning, but he did fall madly in love with one particular bridge:  "The George Washington Bridge over the Hudson is the most beautiful bridge in the world. Made of cables and steel beams, it gleams in the sky like a reversed arch. It is blessed. It is the only seat of grace in the disordered city. It is painted an aluminum color and, between water and sky, you see nothing but the bent cord supported by two steel towers. When your car moves up the ramp the two towers rise so high that it brings you happiness; their structure is so pure, so resolute, so regular that here, finally, steel architecture seems to laugh. The car reaches an unexpectedly wide apr

A Morning Walk from Penn Station to Times Square

Penn Station to Times Square New York City entered a new phase of the reopening on Monday, but you would never know it from a morning walk in Midtown on the day after.  At 34th Street and 8th Avenue, an outsize reminder of the public health crisis from Montefiore Medical Center After running an errand near Penn Station, I decided to take a walk up to Times Square and Broadway before heading home from 59th Street and Columbus Circle.  34th Street looking east toward the Empire State Building I wasn’t altogether prepared for the sights and sounds of this time and this place. Like many other New Yorkers, I have rarely left my neighborhood for the past four months.  8th Avenue at W. 38th Street After exiting a quiet Penn Station near 8th Avenue and W. 33rd Street at what would normally be the end of rush hour, I found myself suddenly dropped into a city (mostly) bereft of crowds.  A few commuters near Port Authority and The New York Times building, 8th Avenue and W. 40th Street Yet, I had