Step inside one of New York City's last remaining Gilded Age treasures. This Victorian Gothic masterwork includes rare innovations of the period, such as a 19th-century heating and air conditioning system. Completed in 1875 (Carl Pfeiffer, architect), the church predates the nearby St. Patrick's Cathedral (1878), Park Avenue Armory (1880) and Plaza Hotel (1907). The 1,800-seat Sanctuary contains no iconography (in keeping with early Presbyterian austerity) and no right angles; the curvature of the balcony and pews draws all eyes to the impressive pulpit. The organ case, covered in golden pipes, rises three stories high. Extensive, handcarved woodwork (Kimbel and Cabus of New York) and resplendent stained glass windows (John C. Spence of Montreal) are all original. A stunning mosaic by the renowned WPA-era artist Eugene Savage graces the Fifth Avenue entrance.
Just beyond the Sanctuary, visitors can tour the Gallery and its new exhibit on the Twelve Apostles (featuring iconography from the church's own windows and architectural interiors). Beyond the Gallery is Kirkland Chapel (1925, James Gamble Rogers, architect), which features a fully restored stained glass window of Christ and the Archangels. With the entire exterior of the church now under scaffolding, visitors will learn about the extensive, $9 million brownstone restoration underway. Scheduled tours include a demonstration of the Sanctuary's mighty Austin organ and a climb into the historic clock tower (286 feet), where the original, manually controlled clockworks are still in use after 140 years.
Access Notes: Participants on the clock tower tours must be able to walk and climb stairs without assistance and are advised to wear flat, preferably rubber-soled shoes.
Saturday & Sunday Tour Info: Organ tours at 11 am & 1 pm on Saturday, 1:30 pm on Sunday. (1 hr) Tours of the Sanctuary, Gallery, and Kirkland Chapel ongoing, every 30 minutes both days.
UPDATE: Due to construction-related complications, tours of the church's Clock Tower have been canceled.
Image Credit: Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church