The ruins of an 1848 church on East 12th Street

You can see it from Fourth Avenue as you approach East 12th Street: a weathered gray stone facade with enormous arched stained glass windows topped by a tower.

It all feels right out of the Middle Ages. But when you get closer, something’s amiss—the rest of the church is missing.

Instead, there’s a 26-story dorm built by New York University, with a couple of benches on the other side of the thin facade, where the sanctuary of the church should be.

The story of this shell of a church on a tidy East Village block begins in 1848, when the original church, the Twelfth Street Baptist Church, was constructed, according to David W. Dunlop’s 2004 book, From Abyssinian to Zion.

The church changed hands quickly. By 1854 it was Temple Emanu-El, which soon moved uptown. In the 1860s, it became the new home of St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church.

Congregants at St. Ann’s razed the original church building except for the facade and tower. They commissioned architect Napoleon Le Brun to construct a Gothic church sanctuary stretching all the way to 11th Street, which was dedicated in 1871, wrote Dunlop.

For decades, St. Ann’s remained a Roman Catholic church and school. (At left, in 1914; Below, in 1975)

But the parish began dwindling in the second half of the 20th century. In 1983, St. Ann’s became St. Ann’s Armenian Catholic Cathedral.

Twenty years later, the Archdiocese of New York announced that St. Ann’s was closing for good. A developer then bought the building with plans to bulldoze it and put up a dorm.

Despite an outcry from preservationists and neighborhood residents who didn’t want to see the lovely church turned into a pile of rocks, St. Ann’s was torn down in 2005 (along with an 1840s rectory building next door).

In something of a victory for the city, the developer left the slender 1848 facade and tower.

They stand disembodied from their sanctuary and strangely unconnected to the dorm behind it…and the street they’ve called home for 171 years.

[Fourth photo: MCNY X2010.11.5283; Fifth Photo: MCNY 2013.3.2.1560]

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9 Responses to “The ruins of an 1848 church on East 12th Street”

  1. Jack Says:

    They should have incorporated the church entrance with the school and matched the gray brick for the new building.

  2. sheila Says:

    The windows were rescued and installed in a Somers NY R.C. parish church:,5679

  3. keenanpatrick424 Says:

    I like that the facade and tower are not connected to the dorm. Now they are a stand alone sculpture. A reality and symbol of the past in contrast with the present.

  4. Penelope Bianchi Says:

    Fascinating. What a save! Bravo!

  5. Mykola (Mick) Dementiuk Says:

    Directly across the street from the church was a cheap hotel, maybe three or four stories, mostly used by the whores who plied their trade on 3rd Ave. Torn down in the 70s, replaced by a NYU dorm. The entire area was seedy, wasted, beyond redemption but it was very active at night. It’s still alive in my book 100 Whores, if you can find it anywhere

  6. elliot reisman Says:

    the same age church on 4th. ave. and pacific st. was demolished last few months, with nary a mention from any stood there from before the neighborhood was incorporated into the city of brooklyn.

  7. The elegant remains of an 1857 church in Queens | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] It’s not the only 19th century church with a facade that’s been incorporated into a contemporary building. This is the story of St. Ann’s in the East Village, which was transformed into an NYU dorm. […]

  8. The Temple on Fifth Avenue: A Story of Jewish New York and Congregation Emanu-El - The Bowery Boys: New York City History Says:

    […] Believe it or not, the face of this building still exists. The rest of the building has been replaced with an apartment building. More information on the website Ephemeral New York. […]

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