Sunday, March 21, 2010

Keep Holy

At the farthest reach of New York City, barely a block from the edge of Queens in Far Rockaway is one of the city's great treasures.

The First Presbyterian was designed by Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson.

That firm built the space The Ink Tank occupied from mid-70s through 2003. Bertram Goodhue worked out of the 2 West 47th Street penthouse until his death in 1924. Prior to R. O. Blechman moving his studio in, it had been vacant for some time the most recent tenant having been a photographer.

While Goodhue worked from the top floor, Elsie de Wolfe took up one of the lower floors. 47th was an architectural trade street, a far cry from today's Diamond District.

The first beautiful Saturday of the Spring offered the opportunity for a long put off trip.

We showed up unannounced. The reception was mixed, but generally friendly.

We spoke to a few parishioners who loved the church and appreciated its craft even if they weren't familiar with its austere lineage.

This structure is a clear combination of Cram and Goodhue's ideas. Cram was a high Gothicist. New Yorkers are familiar with his masterpiece -St. John the Divine. Ralph Adams Cram was the second architect on the project and the man chiefly responsible for the design as we know it today.

Goodhue studied under James Renwick, another great Gothicist. Renwick's signature structure is the Grace Church on Broadway and 11th. His best known is the seat of Archodiocese of New York, St. Patrick's Cathedral. He's also the architect of the lighthouse on Roosevelt Island and that island's famous asylum the Octagon.

The Ink Tank had these same lead windows (and fixtures).

Goodhue's St. Bartholomew's Church on Park Avenue also shares them which makes me think this hardware may be his touch.

One of Goodhue's innovations was to incorporate modern materials into High Gothic.

Thus, the red brick structure and the poured concrete in lieu of masonry. It looks like stone but isn't.

The downside is durability. Concrete cracks and leaks whereas stone is more durable.

Goodhue would continue to work in the Gothic idiom but not exclusively. St. Bart's is a great example of his particular genius.

By the time R. O. Blechman moved into the 47th Street Penthouse, all the fixtures had been stripped.

The door handle shown above is what the originals probably looked like.

The deacon was kind enough to allow a few photographs of the interior. The door was locked, these are through a window to the connecting rectory.

The space is beautifully kept with an air you only get from great works of art.

The stained glass is by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

The Ink Tank didn't have Tiffany windows, that may be the one architectural letdowns.

It did have Guastovino Tiles, most likely left over from a project. Too bad they didn't make a few extra stained glassed windows.

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