Posts Tagged ‘New York churches’

A mystery chapel in a Canal Street subway station

February 4, 2013

Canalstreetmosaic2The only thing that makes waiting for the subway less aggravating is spotting one of these colorful mosaics lining the platform.

They’re mini history lessons depicting some hallmark of the area from when the station was built, say a noteworthy building, like City Hall.

But the Canal Street 1 train platform, with mosaics of a chapel and spire, poses a mystery.

StjohnschapelIn the vicinity of the Varick Street station, no church exists.

It did at one time—and it was a beauty. The lovely St. John’s Chapel was built in 1807 (predating the street grid!) as a parish of Trinity Church, and it became the centerpiece of a luxurious residential enclave called St. John’s Park.

Well-to-do families built Georgian row houses around a small genteel park, and the neighborhood remained fashionable through the 1840s (below, in a 1905 painting by Edward Lamson Henry).

St. John’s Park began losing its appeal in the 1850s, when wealthy New Yorkers chose to relocate uptown. Then a railway terminal replaced the park in 1868, turning the enclave into one of factories and tenements.

Stjohnsparkandchapel

Lovely St. John’s Chapel, with its sandstone portico and columns and 200-foot oak spire and clock dominating the skyline for over 100 years, was torn down in 1918.

All that remains today is the subway mosaic, a small patch of green at the Holland Tunnel entrance—and a forgotten lane in Tribeca bearing the St. John’s name.

When Murray Hill was “Little Armenia”

April 30, 2012

Little Syria, Little Hungary, the Jewish Quarter: Manhattan really used to be a collection of tight ethnic enclaves.

From the 1930s through the 1960s, Lexington Avenue below 34th Street was Little Armenia, a mostly forgotten neighborhood of immigrant rug merchants, grocers, and other small business owners.

“On First, Second, Third, and Lexington Avenues, a small Armenian community was established,” writes Paul Sagsoorian in the Armenian cultural magazine Ararat.

“An Armenian church was obtained in 1915. It was named Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral, after the patron saint of the Armenians.”

The cathedral is still there, on East 27th Street between Second and Third Avenues.

But few other traces of the old neighborhood remain. There’s Kalustyan’s grocery-turned-spice shop on 28th Street, a juncture now known as Curry Hill thanks to all the Indian restaurants and food stores there.

Huge, gold-domed St. Vartan Cathedral still draws a crowd at Second Avenue and 34th Street, and a park up the block on 35th Street bears the name of St. Vartan, the fifth century Armenian Christian martyr.


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