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125-year-old Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine finally declared a city landmark

6sqft - Michelle Cohen

125-year-old Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine finally declared a city landmark



On Tuesday the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to designate the 125-year-old Cathedral Church of St. John The Divine, the world’s largest cathedral; in addition, 115 neighboring buildings became the Morningside Heights Historic District. The designated district runs from West 109th to 119th streets between Riverside Drive and Amsterdam Avenue and includes the famously unfinished cathedral and surrounding campus. With the designation, calendared by the LPC in September, comes a 3-D online map that provides more information about the buildings in the district, most of which were constructed between 1900 and 1910, including townhouses dating back to the late 1800s as well as pre-war apartment buildings.

Full Morningside Heights Historic District interactive map here.

Commission Chairwoman Meenakshi Srinivasan said in a statement, “The Cathedral is among the most famous church buildings in the world and is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year who want to experience this 125-year-old masterpiece and complex with its varied and unique architectural styles…Preservation is not static; it can look towards the future.”

The first phase of construction of the iconic 124-foot French Gothic cathedral happened from 1892 to 1911, and the second phase, from 1916 to 1941, saw the nave completed and connected with the choir; a third phase was begun in 1979 on the western section, which remains unfinished.

Commissioner Shamir-Brown said, “It’s meaningful and important to designate the cathedral as a building that is unfinished. We’re recognizing not only what it was but what it will become. That says something about the potential open-endedness of preservation.”

Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Enclave at the Cathedral, 400 West 113th Street, Brodsky Organization,
Enclave at the Cathedral; image: CityRealty

In 2002 the City Council overturned a decision to designate the unfinished cathedral in an attempt to preserve the entire Cathedral Close. Two rental towers known as Enclave at the Cathedral that flank the cathedral’s northern exposure were excluded from the site’s designation. As 6sqft previously reported, the new rental buildings developed by the Brodsky Organization were involved in a controversy for their position obstructing the cathedral.