Madison Square Presbyterian Church, New York City (1906)

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Coordinates: 40°44′30″N 73°59′15″W / 40.74155°N 73.987519°W / 40.74155; -73.987519

Madison Square
Presbyterian Church
Madison Square Presbyterian Church (1906) crop.jpg
General information
Architectural style Beaux-Arts architecture
Town or city New York City
Country United States
Construction started 1904[1]
Completed 1906
Demolished 1919
Cost $500,000
Client Presbyterian Church in the United States of America
Technical details
Structural system masonry
Design and construction
Architect Stanford White of McKim, Mead, and White

Madison Square Presbyterian Church (demolished 1919) was a Presbyterian church in Manhattan, New York City, located on Madison Square Park at the northeast corner of East 24th Street and Madison Avenue. It was designed by Stanford White in a High Renaissance architectural style, with a prominent central dome over a cubical central space in an abbreviated Greek cross plan; it was built in 1906.[2] The inaugural service was on 14 October.[3] The congregation's church had previously been located on the opposing, southeast corner of Madison and 24th Street, in a Gothic-style structure, also called the "Madison Square Presbyterian Church", whose cornerstone was laid in 1853 and which was completed the following year.[4] Metropolitan Life Insurance Company purchased the original site for the construction of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower, a 48-story building completed in 1909 which was the world's tallest building when it was constructed.[5][6]


The new church, valued at $500,000 and called the "Parkhurst Church" after its pastor, Reverend Charles Henry Parkhurst, was described as "one of the most costly religious edifices in the city"; it was awarded the Gold Medal of Honor of the American Institute of Architects. To hold its own with the towering commercial blocks surrounding it, both built and to come, its entrance was through a portico supported by six pale green granite columns, fully 30 feet tall.[7]

Palladio's Tempietto Barbaro
The Hartford Times Building with columns salvaged from the church.

The building was raised on a marble plinth and built of specially molded bricks in two slightly varied tonalities in a diaper pattern and white and colored architectural terracotta details. It featured a low saucer dome covered in yellow and green tiling, with a prominent gilded lantern. The pediment sculptures by the German-born Adolph Alexander Weinman were tinted by the painter Henry Siddons Mowbray,[7] giving the building a polychromy unusual in American Beaux-Arts architecture. Extensive mosaics and Guastavino tile gave the interior a Byzantine aspect,[8]

The building's architectural style was described by a member of the firm in 1930 as "the Early Christian, with plan in the shape of the Greek cross, like the early Byzantine churches"[7] though a modern viewer would find closer parallels in High Renaissance centrally planned churches of the 16th century, or Andrea Palladio's Tempietto at the Villa Barbaro at Maser.


After the Madison Square church was combined with other Presbyterian churches located on Fifth Avenue and on University Place, the 75 feet (23 m) by 150 feet (46 m) lot was purchased by Metropolitan Life for $500,000, with the funds used to endow the combined churches. While the church's original stained glass windows, organ and seating had been removed and transferred to the Old First Presbyterian Church, and the pediment with its sculptures was re-erected on the south-facing Park façade of McKim, Mead, and White's Metropolitan Museum of Art,[7] the other architectural details were left to be scavenged by the wrecking company that razed the building. The pale green granite columns, pilasters, pediment, and some windows and doors were reused during the construction of the Hartford Times Building in Hartford, Conn. (1920) [9] The stained glass windows were repurposed for the St. Francis wedding chapel at The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside, CA.[10] The New York Times described the building as having "long been recognized as one of the masterpieces of the late Stanford White" and called the church's destruction "a distinct architectural loss to the city".[5]

The 24th Street site was demolished starting in May 1919 to make way for an 18-story annex building that Metropolitan Life constructed at a cost of $1 million, which connected to a previously built 16-story annex on the north side of the street. The earlier annex was connect to the Metropolitan Life Tower by a bridge over 24th Street.[11] A decade later the annex buildings were leveled, and the entire block bounded by 24th Street, 25th Street, Madison Avenue and Park Avenue South became the site of the Metropolitan Life North Building, still extant, which was designed to accommodate a building as high as 80 stories, of which only 30 were constructed.[12]


  1. ^ Mendelsohn, Joyce (1998), Touring the Flatiron: Walks in Four Historic Neighborhoods, New York: New York Landmarks Conservancy, ISBN 0-964-7061-2-1, OCLC 40227695, p.22
  2. ^ NYPL Digital Images
  3. ^ Dedication of the Madison Square Presbyterian Church: Sunday, October fourteenth nineteen hundred and six; morning and evening service.
  4. ^ Staff. "Laying of the Corner-stone of Madison-square Presbyterian Church--Address by Rev. Dr. Adams.", The New York Times, July 13, 1853. Accessed November 16, 2010.
  5. ^ a b Staff. "RAZE PARKHURST CHURCH.; Famous Piece of Architecture Making Way for Office Building.", The New York Times, May 6, 1919. Accessed November 16, 2010.
  6. ^ Ennis, Thomas W. "1909 TOWER HERE GETTING NEW LOOK; Metropolitan Life Building Is Being Modernized Planned by LeBrun 1909 TOWER HERE GETTING NEW LOOK Chimes Silenced The 'Old' Garden Gone", The New York Times, January 7, 1962. Accessed November 17, 2010.
  7. ^ a b c d Kendall (1930) p.105
  8. ^ It was called "a fine example of Byzantine architecture" in Collins, J. F. L. (1910) Both Sides of Fifth Avenue and "Byzantine" in Silver, Nathan (1967) Lost New York, New York: Weathervane Books. p.148
  9. ^ "Hartford Times Building" Historic Buildings of Connecticut
  10. ^ "The Lost 1907 Madison Square Presbyterian Church". Daytonian in Manhattan.
  11. ^ Staff. "MILLION DOLLAR BUILDING TO REPLACE PARKHURST CHURCH ON MADISON AVENUE; Eighteen-Story Structure Being Built by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Will Be Connected with Main Building by Bridge Across Twenty-fourth Street", The New York Times, September 28, 1919. Accessed November 16, 2010.
  12. ^ Staff. "METROPOLITAN LIFE TO BUILD NEW TOWER; Acquires Whole Block From 24th to 25th St. and Madison to 4th --Talk of 80 Stories.", The New York Times, September 25, 1929. Accessed November 16, 2010.

  • Kendall, William Mitchell in Hoak, Edward Warren and Church, Willis Humphrey eds. (1930, reprinted 2002) Masterpieces of American Architecture: Museums, Libraries, Churches and Other Public Buildings, p.105