NYC - Greenwich Village: Church of the Ascension
The Church of Ascension was founded in 1827 by The Reverend Manton Eastburn, a champion of the evangelical movement. The first church, a small white Greek Revival building on Canal Street, was consecrated in 1829 and, after a decade of growth for the parish, was destroyed by fire.
Within a month, the Vestry selected the present site on Fifth Avenue and Tenth Street for a new church, to be designed by Richard Upjohn, who had just completed the Trinity Church. The new symmetrically massed brownstone Gothic Revival building with a central clock tower was consecrated on November 5, 1841, considerably north of the city's population center at the time.
From its earliest days, the church has been the setting for many notable events, including the marriage of President John Tyler and Julia Gardiner in 1844. Many such prominent New Yorkers as August Belmont, William B. Astor, Frederick de Peyster and William C. Rhinelander have been parishioners. In 1888 the women of the parish set up the St. Agnes Nursery, the first day nursery in New York City.
From 1885-1888, Stanford White was hired to redesign the interior as one of the first projects for McKim, Mead and White. Funded as a memorial by their daughters to William C. Rhienlander and Mary Rogers, White added a great mural, the Ascension of our Lord, a main altar and mosaic by David Maitland Armstrong, and sculptured angels by Louis St. Gardens, transforming a bleak, bare space inot one of the most beautiful spaces in New York.
A Holtkamp organ was installed in 1967. A freestanding altar designed by Andrej Ryzcek, made by Lewis Epstein and Alex Tweedie, and given by Esther D. Hamilton in memory of Catherine B. Fair, was added in 1983.
President John Tyler secretly married Julia Gardiner here in 1844…she was 30 years his junior. The Church of the Ascension was the first church in New York City to keep its doors open at all hours, starting in 1929 a week after the stock market crash and not closing them again until 1966 During the Depression, homeless would find shelter in the pews.
The Church of the Ascension is situated within the Greenwich Village Historic district, designated as such by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1969.