St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery is the oldest site of continuous worship in New York City and the second oldest church in Manhattan, but in the 1920s Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to design three high-rise apartment towers to rise over the grave of Peter Stuyvesant. Fortunately the Great Depression got in the way and today, the church remains as it once was, In 2012, the church recieved $150,000 to make repairs to the 1858 James Bogardus designed Portico and entry steps from the Partners in Preservation program.
St. Mark’s preserves the city’s Dutch roots through it’s name, location, history, and relics. Peter Stuyvesant, the last Dutch governor of New Netherlands (before the English came and renamed the colony New York) lived in the vicinity of the church. His farm was named the bouwerij (Dutch for farm), which when Anglicized, became the Bowery. Governor Stuyvesant’s great-grandson, Petrus Stuyvesant, sold the chapel property to the Episcopal Church for one dollar and two years later, on April 25, 1795, the cornerstone of St. Mark’s Church was laid.
The church’s exterior and yard are equally as important as the church’s interior. In the West Yard sits the mechanism from the church’s nineteenth-century clock which was damaged in a 1978 fire. The two sculptures of American Indians, entitled “Inspiration” and “Aspiration,” were carved by sculptor Solon Borglum, the brother of the sculptor of Mt. Rushmore. They were acquired in the 1920s along with two lion sculptures by Rev. William Norman Guthrie, the same pastor who commissioned the Frank Lloyd Wright apartments.
A who’s who of nineteenth-century, and earlier, New Yorkers can be found interred in St. Mark’s courtyard. These famous New Yorkers included Peter Stuyvesant, A.T. Stewart, Nicholas Fish, Abraham Schermerhorn, Elizabeth Beekman, Daniel Tompkins and former mayors of New York City Philip Hone and Gideon Lee. A bust of Stuyvesant in the churchyard was presented to St. Mark’s by Queen Wilhelmina of Holland and the Dutch Government in 1915.
St. Mark’s in the Bowery is a community institution with an international reputation. The church maintains a strong relationship with its historic roots while remaining engaged with its ever-changing community. The church has hosted Queen Julian, Princess Margriet, and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands while simultaneously serving as a center for the arts supporting community groups and renowned artists. W.H. Auden, William Carlos Williams, and Allen Ginsberg have taken part in poetry readings at the church and Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham have danced there. With your vote, St. Mark’s can continue serving its its diverse community for many years to come.
Learn more about St. Mark’s in the Bowery on our upcoming virtual talk, The Secrets of St. Mark’s Place!
Untapped Cities is an official blog ambassador for Partners in Preservation, a community-based initiative by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation to raise awareness of the importance of historic places. For complete coverage, follow our Partners in Preservation category.