West Park Presbyterian Church landmarked

Church officials and congregation opposed designation. On January 12, 2010, Landmarks designated West Park Presbyterian Church at 165 West 86th Street in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The Romanesque Revival building’s development occurred in two phases. Leopold Eidlitz designed a small chapel completed in 1883. When the church outgrew the building in 1889, it commissioned Henry Kilburn to build a new sanctuary and redesign the small chapel’s facade. Kilburn’s design features distinctive red sandstone cladding, round arch openings, and a large bell tower.

At the July 14, 2009 hearing, Church representatives spoke in opposition, testifying that the congregation had been forced to worship at another site because of the building’s deteriorating condition. Valerie Campbell, West Park’s attorney, said that in order to restore the main building, the Church partnered with a developer to demolish the small chapel and build a residential tower on its footprint. Campbell said the developer withdrew after Landmarks scheduled the designation hearing. Residents, preservation groups, and elected officials testified in support of designation, including Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal, and representatives for Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer, and then-Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum. 6 CityLand 138 (Aug. 15, 2009).

At the January 12 hearing, the Commissioners focused their comments on the building’s aesthetic value as a landmark. Commissioner Stephen Byrns called the building the “finest Richardsonian Romanesque structure south of Harlem” and said protecting the buildings was one of his highest priorities. Commissioner Libby Ryan expressed hope that landmarking would help find a new use that would lead towards the building’s restoration. Chair Robert B. Tierney agreed that the structure should be protected, and said Landmarks would work with elected officials to find an occupant to restore the building as an “anchor” for the community.

LPC: West Park Presbyterian Church, 165 West 86th Street, Manhattan (LP- 2338) (Jan. 12, 2009).


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