Step inside St Bart’s, a center of music, education and worship

Occupying an entire city block on the Upper East Side, St. Bartholomew’s Church, also known as St. Barts, is a center for more than religion. Between Sunday church masses and daily evening prayers, children come and go from her preschool, and musicians roam the space rehearsing on New York’s largest pipe organ.

On August 31 and September 28, join Untapped New York Insiders for a members-only tour of historic St. Bartholomew’s Church with Carole French of St. Bart’s Conservancy. The tour will visit Stanford’s Triple White Portal and the Children’s Chapel. Later, you’ll hear about Vanderbilt’s historic connection, including the artifacts of that connection on display in and around the church. After seeing carvings and tesserae brought to Park Avenue from the Renwick Madison Avenue Church, you’ll learn about the French cultural connection that influenced the Art Deco mosaics inside the church. Stepping into the history of New York music, you’ll see the organ console and its constituent pipes arranged around and above the nave of the church.

Enter St. Barts Church

Architect Bertram Goodhue, known for designing the Nebraska State Capitol Building and the Los Angeles Central Library, designed the church in the Romanesque and Byzantine Revival styles beginning in 1916. However, this n It was not the first house of the congregation. Founded in 1835, the congregation started in NoHo, moved to Midtown, and landed on the Upper East Side. While the first church structure was a simple building, the second was designed by the architect of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, James Renwick. featured large bronze doors designed by French sculptor Philip Martiny.

After structural problems arose in the church’s Midtown building, the search for a new location for the church which had gained a congregational reputation with great preachers and powerful music began. The new location, which still stands, features a portal designed by McKim, Mead & White in 1903 for the church’s location in Midtown. The portal pays tribute to Alice Vanderbilt’s late husband, Cornelius Vanderbilt II.

Outside St. Barths
The exterior of St. Bart’s. Courtesy of Kara Flannery.

The musical history of the church goes back as far as its architectural history. Once the church invited renowned British conductor Leopold Stokowski to join the congregational music team, its repertoire of musical giants continued to grow. After Stokowski conducted the St. Barts Choir and played its famous organ, English organist Edwin H. Lemare and noted composer Amy Beach, among others, extended the church’s musical influence.

The centerpiece of St. Barts’ musical sphere is its organ, which debuted in 1901 as a one-of-a-kind organ designed by the Ernest M. Skinner Company of Boston. From 1927, the church enlarged the organ and improvements to the instrument have continued until today. Currently the organ has 168 stops and over 12,000 pipes with organ blowers now located in an air-conditioned room in the basement. Parts of the organ are placed throughout the church, including a section in the dome. The organ can produce sounds such as “ethereal celestials, colorful flutes, orchestral reeds and a brilliant trumpet,” according to St. Bart’s. Due to the supremacy of St. Barts in the organ world, the Historical Organ Society held its first meeting in the Choir Hall of St. Barts in 1956.

The organ of Saint-Barth
The largest organ in New York. Courtesy of Kara Flannery.

Beyond its musical influence, the church offers religious education classes, recovery meetings, and weekly meditation, among other opportunities. For decades, St. Barts has opened its doors to thousands of homeless New Yorkers. The church is also home to Inside Park, a restaurant that serves New American dishes for lunch and dinner.

Because of its long-term place in New York’s architectural, musical, and religious history, the New York Landmarks Commission has designated St. Barts as a national monument. To explore this historic building, join Untapped New York Insiders on a members-only tour of historic St. Bart’s Church.

Enter St. Barts Church

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