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Saint Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery

Saint Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery

Also known as St. Mark's Church

Saint Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, the oldest site of continuous worship in Manhattan, was one of the first landmarks designated by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Location: 31 East 10th Street, New York, NY  |  Google Maps
People: James Bogardus, Harold Edelman, Judith Edelman, Ernest Flagg, John McComb, James Renwick, Jr., Peter Stuyvesant, Martin Euclid Thomas, Ithiel Towne 
Organizations: Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Historic Districts Council, Neighborhood Preservation Center, Saint Mark’s Landmark Fund, Municipal Art Society, New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
Above: St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery; Courtesy of Untapped Cities

Saint Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery is the oldest site of continuous worship in Manhattan.1 Located at 31 East 10th Street, at the intersection of Stuyvesant Street and Second Avenue, the site was part of a “bouwerie” or farm plot that was purchased in 1651 by Peter Stuyvesant. Here Stuyvesant built a Dutch Reform Chapel and upon his death in 1672 was buried in a vault beneath the church. Stuyvesant’s great grandson rebuilt the chapel as an Episcopal church in 1773. This church is an important example of the blending and harmonizing of many different, significant styles.2 John McComb built the sanctuary of the church in 1777. With its fieldstone walls and round arched windows, the sanctuary belongs to the late Georgian style. In 1828, the Greek Revival style steeple was added by Martin Euclid Thomas and Ithiel Towne. Martin Euclid Thomas was also involved in the renovation of the sanctuary in 1836, a project that replaced its square pillars with slender Egyptian revival ones. In 1856, James Bogardus, added a cast-iron portico belonging to the Italianate tradition. Finally a brick addition was commissioned in 1861, designed and supervised by architect James Renwick, Jr.3 

This building is not only a display of elegant architecture but also one whose history is very valuable to the City of New York. Because of its historic and special architectural character, a result of its hybrid of styles and elements from diverse periods, Saint Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery was designated as an individual landmark on April 19, 1966. After being designated a landmark, the building was badly damaged by a fire in 1978. Harold and Judith Edelman oversaw the restoration of the building, which took nearly 10 years to complete. After suffering another fire a decade later, the Beaux-Arts designed rectory by Ernest Flagg was restored. Today the rectory continues to function as the rector’s residence in addition to being the home of the Neighborhood Preservation Center, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Historic Districts Council, the Saint Mark’s Landmark Fund, and other small preservation-related not-for-profits.4

Saint Mark's Church in-the-Bowery was designated a New York City Landmark in 1966. The church is also part of the St. Mark's Historic District, which was designated in 1969 and had its boundaries extended in 1984. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The church still functions as a spiritual center but also is used for political, artistic, and community activities. Danspace Project, The Poetry Project, The Incubator Arts Project, and Richard Foreman’s The Ontological-Hysteric Theater have been housed at Saint Mark’s.5

1952: The Municipal Art Society holds a panel on "Thirty New York Buildings Most Worthy of Preservation." Saint Mark's Church in-the-Bowery was among the buildings to receive the greatest number of votes.6

April 19, 1966: Saint Marks-In-The-Bowery is designated an individual landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.7

January 14, 1969: St. Mark’s Historic District is designated by the LPC, which includes the church and the rectory.8

September 25, 1983: The church is rededicated after being extensively restored following a 1978 fire.9

At the time of its landmark designation in 1966, the church and its grounds were being vandalized regularly. The historic burial sites had also suffered years of neglect, with approximately a century of deferred maintenance. The fenced off yards were increasingly being used as play spaces by local daycare groups, however, conditions inside the church were hazardous. Additionally, during the 1960s the church sponsored a number of arts programs, including the Poetry Project. These related situations provided the impetus for the creation of a summer and after-school youth employment program, the Preservation Youth Project (PYP).10

In 1967, under the direction of the architectural firm of Edelman & Salzman, the PYP reclaimed the neglected graveyards for use as community parks, primarily supervised by skilled artisans drawn from the St. Mark’s artist community. That same year, local residents Georgia and Bill Delano formed the Friends of St. Mark’s to support the PYP, chaired by Dore Ashton and J. Sinclair Armstrong, who at the time was St. Mark’s Senior Warden. With the support of the Friends, an effort to repair and preserve the exterior commenced with the restoration of the 18th century cast iron fence, portico and steeple. The interior was upgraded to accommodate the growing arts programs hosted at St. Mark’s. However, on July 27, 1978, with the steeple repaired and the bulk of the upgrade and restoration work completed, the church was nearly destroyed by fire, which damaged a section of the roof, destroyed a number of stained-glass windows, and cracked the 1836 church bell.11

The day after the fire, the Friends of St. Mark’s reorganized as the Citizens to Save St. Mark’s to raise funds for the post-fire restoration. The following year, Citizen’s was formalized as the St. Mark’s Historic Landmark Fund thanks to a seed gift from Lu Esther T. Mertz. Thus began a nine-year project to restore St. Mark’s. Day-to-day restoration work was done by the PYP, under the supervision of a master mason and master carpenter. The church was re-dedicated in 1983. Over the next five years, working summers and part-time, the PYP completed the restoration, and returned the theater space to the artist community in 1987.12

In April 1988, another fire rendered the Church’s historic 1901 Ernest Flagg rectory uninhabitable. The PYP worked to rescue the building envelope. Thereafter, a long hiatus ensued as securing funding to restore the interior to its previous use as a clergy residence proved infeasible. In 1997, the St. Mark’s Historic Landmark Fund secured a commitment from the Lu Esther T. Mertz Charitable Trust to fund the interior restoration provided that the Landmark Fund could develop an appropriate, mission-related and financially sustainable adaptive re-use for the building. This resulted in the formation of the Neighborhood Preservation Center, which opened in 1999.13

A co-working endeavor with two other preservation groups in need of a full-time home at the time — the Historic Districts Council and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation — the NPC worked to support organizations that sought to enhance neighborhoods and cities, primarily in New York City. Since its inception, the NPC has hosted thousands of meetings for nonprofit organizations and held many public programs in its rectory space. The NPC also maintains a database of New York City Landmark Preservation Commission Designation Reports, a valuable tool for researchers.14 Following 20 years of management by the St. Mark’s Historic Landmark Fund, the Rectory returned to use and management by the church in 2020, while allowing Village Preservation and HDC to continue their occupancy.15

  • St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery Archives
  • St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery
  • 131 East 10th Street, New York, NY 10003
  • Contact: office@stmarksbowery.org
Landmarks Preservation Commission, “Designation Report,” 19 April 1966, Number 22, LP-0227. http://s-media.nyc.gov/agencies/lpc/lp/0229.pdf
”POSTINGS: Renovating the Rectory of St. Mark’s in-the-Bowery; Home for a Rector, and More,” The New York Times, 8 March 1988.
“St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery: The 20th Century: The Arts in the 20th Century,” Greenwich Village History. Article retrieved 16 April 2016.
Anthony C. Wood, Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect A City’s Landmarks (New York: Routledge, 2007), page 120.
Landmarks Preservation Commission, “Designation Report,” 19 April 1966, Number 22, LP-0227. http://s-media.nyc.gov/agencies/lpc/lp/0229.pdf
  8. Landmarks Preservation Commission, “St. Mark’s Historic District,” 14 January 1969, No. 1, LP-0250. http://www.neighborhoodpreservationcenter.org/db/bb_files/ST.-MARK–S-HD.pdf

  9. Philip Shenon, “A New Era for Historic St. Mark’s in Bowery,” The New York Times, 26 September, 1983.

  10. “History,” St. Mark’s Church In-The-Bowery, accessed 29 June 2020, https://stmarksbowery.org/history; Miles Champion, “Insane Podium: A Short History,” The Poetry Project, accessed 30 October 2020, https://www.2009-2019.poetryproject.org/about/history/; Stephen Facey, personal correspondence, 14 June, 2020.

  11. “History,” St. Mark’s Church In-The-Bowery; Robert Mcg. Thomas Jr., “Blaze Damages Bowery Church Erected in 1799,” New York Times, July 28, 1978. https://www.nytimes.com/1978/07/28/archives/blaze-damages-bowery-church-erected-in-1799-fire-damages-st-marks.html

  12. St. Mark’s Church In-The-Bowery, “History”; Stephen Facey; Shenon, “A New Era for Historic St. Mark’s in Bowery”

  13. Stephen Facey.

  14. “About Us,” Neighborhood Preservation Center, 23 February 2016. https://web.archive.org/web/20160305161809/http:/nycnpc.org/about.htm; NPC Designation Report Database, accessed Oct 29, 2020, http://www.neighborhoodpreservationcenter.org/designation_reports/

  15. Ibid.