Location: Park Avenue and East 64th Streets, New York, NY
Landmark Status: Upper East Side Historic District
Original Architect: Henry C. Peyton with Allen & Collens
Date of Construction: 1920-1922
Date of Restoration: 2017-2020
Scope of Work: Stone Cleaning & Restoration, Bell Tower Restoration, Stucco Restoration, Stained Glass Restoration
Awards: Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award (New York Landmarks Conservancy), Excellence in Historic Preservation Award (Preservation League of New York State), Good Steward Award (Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts), Stanford White Historic Preservation Award (Institute of Classical Architecture & Art)
Central Presbyterian Church was designed by architect Henry C. Pelton in association with Allen & Collens and constructed 1920-22. Originally known as Park Avenue Baptist Church, it was commissioned by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The neo-Gothic exterior is cleverly arranged to appear as one large church, with seven levels of classrooms and offices above and below the sanctuary. It is constructed of rock-face granite ashlar and limestone trim over a steel frame, stucco and brick at the secondary facades, and leaded-glass windows designed by Henry Wynd Young. A carillon of 53 bells was installed in 1925 but later moved by Rockefeller to Riverside Church. The present congregation moved into the building in 1929.
Despite the high-quality of the original materials and craftmanship, natural weathering took its toll on the church. Almost 100 years after its construction, the congregation embarked on a restoration project. Walter B. Melvin Architects, LLC was retained as restoration architect, West New York Restoration as masonry contractor, Femenella & Associates as stained glass contractor, and Fonderie Paccard as the foundry for bell casting, along with other sub-consultants and sub-contractors to round out the team.
What began as a triage approach to repairs ultimately became a comprehensive restoration effort. The darkened stone facades were cleaned with water and a soft micro-abrasive. The limestone bell tower was completely disassembled from the steel frame and reconstructed with improved detailing. Deteriorated stones throughout were repaired or replaced in-kind (carved off-site or in-situ). The existing stucco at the secondary facades was removed and the original effect was replicated to mimic the natural granite and limestone at the primary facades. All of the stained-glass windows were removed, completely restored with new lead, and re-installed. The three sets of wood entry doors were restored. Roofing at the set-back and main roofs was replaced. Long quiet, a new carillon with 50 bronze bells cast in France was installed at the restored bell tower.
The project began in fall 2017, paused during the pandemic, and was substantially completed in fall 2020.