2. Riverside Church was Built by John D. Rockefeller Jr.

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Minister Fosdick was the pastor of the Baptist church ministry at the Park Avenue Baptist Church, whose most famous member was John D. Rockefeller, Jr.. According to our tour guide at Riverside Church, Rockefeller and Fosdick developed a strong friendship overtime. Fosdick professed his desire for a church that would give “this educated community a place of greatest beauty for worship” and a place to “serve the social needs of the somewhat lonely metropolite”, and Rockefeller, who believed that New York City needed “a great Protestant cathedral” was very supportive of the project.

Rockefeller had previously supported plans for the construction of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. However, the idea of a broader, more inclusive view of Christianity appealed to Rockefeller. Bishop of Manning of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine proclaimed that the time had not arrived when members of other denominations could join the board of the church so Rockefeller, a Baptist, was denied board membership. This prompted him to approach Fosdick concerning “an inclusive church” with no “specific denominational connotations.”

Fosdick agreed to be pastor under the condition that the church be near Columbia University. Thereby, Rockefeller and Fosdick started scouting land in the area and chose the south side of West 122nd Street between Riverside Drive and Claremont Avenue, on one of the highest points in Manhattan for their church. Three apartment buildings, as well as a mansion and a stable from the late 1800s were demolished to make room for the church. The church was built to advocate three principles that Rockefeller and Fosdick believed in: a church in an interdenominational setting, a large church in a neighborhood important to the city, and a church open to all who profess faith in Christ.