New York’s sacred places of worship possess countless life stories and historical chapters as well as inspiring and magnificent art, architecture, and design. Jacob Riis, the social reformer and photographer whose works brought to light the suffering of the poor living in New York City tenements, was one of the early parishioners of the Church of the Resurrection, the oldest church in Richmond Hill, Queens. In the 1990s, those restoring the façade of the 1844 Gothic building of the First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn found the original oyster shell mortar and matched it. The building contains splendid Tiffany stained glass windows. In the Lower East Side, thanks to the dedicated efforts to save a structure once in decline, the Eldridge Street Synagogue, a space that long ago provided inspiration to newly arriving Jewish immigrants arriving in America from Russia and Poland, still survives.
That each of these places remains standing and vital to their communities personifies resilience and a miracle. That this weekend New Yorkers and others can see and tour various sacred places of New York City and State is a priceless opportunity. This weekend, May 20 and 21, the New York Landmarks Conservancy is holding its 6th annual Sacred Sites Open House, during which more than 170 churches, temples, synagogues, and meeting houses in New York City and State will be open for exploring the architecture, art, history, and cultural programs of these places. In 2016, the New York Landmarks Conservancy is also marking the 30th anniversary of the group’s Sacred Sites Program, a statewide initiative to foster and support, through technical and financial assistance, preservation endeavors for these historic places.
The Open House encompasses a wide variety of religious congregations, time periods, and architectural styles, from the architecture of a unique Ukrainian Catholic Church that drew from the wooden churches of the Carpathian Mountains to structures of the Gothic Revival, Romanesque Revival, and Shingle styles. Geographically, a significant number are in New York City, yet the open house includes worship sites eastward to the tip of Long Island, upstate and westward to Niagara Falls and Buffalo, and northward to the historic village of Monroe in the state’s rolling farmlands just south of the Canadian border. [Read more →]