“The great cathedral on Morningside Heights is nearing completion faster than most of us imagine,” states the opening sentence of this New York Times article from November 28, 1909.
Well, not exactly—the Cathedral of St. John the Divine is still unfinished more than a century later.
The cornerstone was laid in 1892, and workers instantly encountered problems.
First, geological snags had to be fixed before the foundation could be poured.
In 1905, controversy erupted when it was discovered that sculptor Gutzon Borglam had created female angels in one of the chapels. Four years later, the Byzantine-Romanesque design was shelved in favor of a Gothic look.
Some of the seven planned chapels were completed, as was the crypt and nave, by the 1930s. Then World War II halted construction, postwar efforts to get things going occurred in fits and starts, and a fire in 2001 destroyed part of the northern end.
But even at only three-fifths complete, it’s still breathtaking and beautiful.