New York, USA

Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York, USA

The Presbyterian church of New York began life in Cedar Street in Downtown in 1808. By the 1830s the character of Downtown New York began to move from residential to financial and a decision was made to widen Cedar Street – at this time the Presbyterian church began to look for a new venue, which they found on Duane and Church Streets. However, this new church was barely finished when the Rev. Dr James Alexander began to push for another move, further Uptown. He was forced to resign in 1849, but by 1852 Dr Alexander had been proved right and was invited back to lead the congregation at their new church on 23rd Street.

This new church had capacity for 200 worshippers, but even this had become too small and by the early 1870s plans were made to move even further Uptown to 55th Street and Fifth Avenue. At that time this site was on the edge of New York’s northern developments and so a large church could be built – although it is dwarfed by its surrounding buildings today. This new church was dedicated in 1875.

By 1900 this church was still not large enough and as many as 1,000 people were regularly turned away every Sunday. By 1916 church membership rang to 2,606. From this high point numbers began to fall and no further move or extension was considered to be necessary. From this point onwards the Church has continued to be an extremely active church but has found itself surrounded by the massive skyscrapers of Fifth Avenue (not to mention the exclusive stores which line the Avenue). It is one of New York’s most familiar Churches and worth a quick look if you are passing by.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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