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

Museums in New York Open on Mondays

Update: As of March 12, 2020, many New York arts institutions have temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 public health crisis. Please see this post for announcements of reopenings.
On August 14, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that low-risk cultural activities, museums, aquariums, and other low risk cultural arts can reopen in New York City on August 24. 

Come back to this page for any updates about reopenings.
(Currently CLOSED) Several museums in New York City are open on Mondays, including MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney.
This list has been expanded to include free or pay-what-you-wish hours.


American Museum of Natural History Central Park West and 79th Street
See the post, Big Things to See at the American Museum of Natural History.
Cooper Hewitt
2 East 91st St.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 1071 Fifth Ave

Jewish Museum 1109 Fifth Ave

Metropolitan Museum of Art 100 Fifth Avenue
See the post 25 Things To Do Near the Metropolitan Museum of …

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.

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.  

Other renowned parts of the city such as City Hall and Brooklyn Bridge have been frequently occupied, as in Occupied, with crowds protesting police violence. This week, NYPD officers in riot gear remove…

The City Turned Inside Out: A Walk from Battery Park to Fulton Street

While the cast of HAMILTON sings “The World Turned Upside Down,” New Yorkers could easily hum along to “The City Turned Inside Out” this summer. (not a real song) Where once a city’s important work took place indoors - within the soaring office buildings, famous restaurants, legendary museums, and storied performance halls, the COVID-19 epidemic has literally turned the residents outdoors. 

At least it’s summer in the city, when spending time outdoors is common and pleasant enough. Still, the city remains strange this summer of 2020. 

With the absence of tourists, and with office workers connecting virtually from home, many of the city’s main attractions aren’t attracting many visitors. A walk from the Battery to Fulton Street on a pleasant Thursday afternoon bore this out. 

It’s uplifting to at least find plants that are alive and happy. Thanks to the city’s gardeners and landscapers, the city parks are looking particularly lush and splendid this summer. The grounds of Battery Park feel…

The Company of Nature: Walking With Butterflies in Fort Tryon Park

If wandering the empty urban canyons feels a little lonely and depressing, a better idea would be to head to the nearest park. This past Saturday, a day that was sunny but not too hot, Fort Tryon Park in northern Manhattan turned out to be the perfect place to not only satisfy wanderlust but to rediscover the company of nature. Butterflies were there. Hundreds of butterflies - Tiger Swallowtails, Monarch Butterflies, Black Swallowtails, Cabbage White Butterflies, and Silver Spotted Skippers, among them. Moths, too, although I have not yet learned their names.  The Heather Garden is situated just beyond the entrance to Fort Tryon Park. With seasonal plantings, the garden is always a serene spot.  Observing butterflies involves watching their interaction with blooming flowers and shrubs. The Tiger Swallowtails are easy to find and found here in significant numbers. Just look for the Butterfly Bushes. The Cabbage White Butterflies are here in abundance, too, though not as showy as the swallow…

A Weekend Walk on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail

Imagine strolling from town to town near the eastern shores of the Hudson River, walking a well-trodden path lined with trees and stately architecture and with easy access to cafes, local shops, and train stations for an easy ride home. Imagine a weekend when the sun is bright and the sun is warm, and many other people - but not too many - are out enjoying the same weather and the same stroll. Such were the pleasures on a recent Sunday, in the latter part of this unseasonal winter, along the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail not too far north from New York City.


The Old Croton Aqueduct, the system that once delivered fresh water from the Croton River to New York City, was a huge and complex marvel of engineering. The trail sits on top of the aqueduct system. This post describes a walk along just a section of the trail, the one that begins at the Keeper’s House in Dobbs Ferry and ends in Irvington.


First, catch a Metro-North Hudson line train to Dobbs Ferry, a village in southern Westchester C…

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 apro…

Taking a Constitutional Walk

A long time ago individuals going out for a walk, especially to get fresh air and exercise, often referred to the activity as "taking a constitutional walk." The word "constitutional" refers to one's constitution or physical makeup, so a constitutional walk was considered beneficial to one's overall wellbeing. (Or, as some would prefer to call it, "wellness.") The phrase is more common in British literature than in American letters.

As early as the mid-nineteenth century, many American commentators expressed concern that their countrymen were falling into lazy and unhealthy habits. Newspaper columnists and editorial writers urged their readers to take up the practice of the "constitutional" walk.



One such essay, "Walking as an Exercise," originally printed in the Philadelphia Gazette and reprinted in New England Farmer, Volume 11, 1859, urges the people of farm areas to take up walking. City dwellers seemed to have the advantag…

NYC Re-openings and Travel Advice

As the pandemic crisis improves in New York State, several NYC attractions are scheduling their re-openings. What will open, and how will you get there? This list will be updated following official announcements.
UPDATED August 14, 2020. With the state of New York currently ahead of the class in the pandemic outbreak across the US, many favorite local destinations have started to reopen. The rollout is designed to be gradual, with geographic regions advancing according to a fixed set of metrics. 
New York City, the hardest hit area in the first months of the crisis, entered Phase 4 on Monday, July 20. The local exception: indoors of malls, restaurants, and cultural institutions.
On August 14, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that low-risk cultural activities, museums, aquariums, and other low risk cultural arts can reopen in New York City on August 24

Openings     
Phase 4 began in NYC on July 20. Stay outside! (Forward.ny.gov) NO indoor dining!
• Restaurants: Consult this NYC Department o…

Delacroix’s Cats

Following its record-breaking debut at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the blockbuster Delacroix exhibit has opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. While not all of the works could travel, as some are intrinsic to the Louvre, the big cats made the trip to the city. For the Delacroix exhibit poster, the Met has selected Young Tiger Playing with Its Mother, the artist’s great and surprising painting from 1830, as the signature and defining work of the exhibition.


Eugène Delacroix (French, 1798–1863), known as the leading Romantic painter of his era, loved cats. His many notebooks show preparatory sketches of lions, tigers, and several charming domestic cats. The big cats, for the most part, made it into big paintings. At 52 x 76.6 in. (130 x 195 cm), Young Tiger Playing with Its Mother, 1830, is astonishingly large for an animal painting of his time, a size normally devoted to a history painting. His most famous work, La Liberté guidant le peuple, dates from the same year.�…

Starstruck at MoMA

(Update July 31, 2020. Please note: After reopening in 2019, MoMA is currently closed as a result of the pandemic. MoMA has not announced its reopening.) 
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in Midtown Manhattan is undergoing a significant renovation and expansion that will increase gallery space by thirty percent upon completion in 2019. In the midst of renovation and following a long hot summer, the museum may currently look a little rough around the edges and even disorienting for longtime patrons. For starters, you’ll need to enter the museum on W. 54th Street instead of W. 53rd Street while the work is taking place, and the museum store is now currently on the second floor next to the coffee bar which has also moved.


This state of affairs didn’t stop visitors on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend from making a pilgrimage to the museum to gaze at treasures of modern art. In an age of quickly disposable digital imagery, the original and cherished works still exude their aura. Ironically,…