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Sanctuary & Parish Hall
St. Mark’s Church stands on the oldest site of continuous worship in New York City and is the city’s second-oldest public building. The site was part of a farm (or “bouwerie”) purchased in 1651 by Peter Stuyvesant, the last Dutch Director-General of the New Netherland colony. On the exact site of the present day church, Stuyvesant built his personal Dutch Reform Chapel and, in 1672, was buried in a vault beneath the church.
In 1793, Stuyvesant’s great grandson, Peter Stuyvesant II, asked Trinity Church to rebuild his family’s chapel on the site of his ancestors’ burial vault on the Bowery plantation. Alexander Hamilton, attorney for Trinity Parish, provided legal assistance in incorporating St. Mark’s as the first Episcopal Parish independent of Trinity Church in the New World. St. Mark’s Church was completed and consecrated on May 9, 1799.
In the early 19th century, many of New York’s most prominent families attended St. Mark’s and many were buried there. Today, along with that of Peter Stuyvesant are visible on vault markers such familiar names as Beekman, Fish and Tompkins. Other notable New Yorkers buried on the site include two Mayors of New York City: Gideon Lee, Vestryman and Treasurer of St. Mark's Church and Philip Hone, known as a chronicler of the city’s social life of his time.
Completed in 1799, the fieldstone sanctuary, or the main structure of the church, was built by the architect/mason John McComb, Jr. in the late Georgian style. Throughout the church’s subsequent history, highly important architects were engaged for additions and alterations, including:
- The Firm of Ithiel Town & Martin E. Thompson – the steeple, constructed in 1828 is attributed to Town and Thompson, who were noted as the most prestigious architects of the Greek Revival style. Thompson is also credited with an interior renovation to the Sanctuary, circa 1836, replacing the original bulky square pillars that supported the balcony with the present slender Egyptian Revival columns by 1839 to “improve the view from the aisles.”
- James Bogardus – one of three architects/contractors who bid for the project, the 1850s cast-iron portico is attributed to Bogardus. Bogardus’ prominent use of cast iron exteriors led to the use of steel frames in the construction of whole buildings.
The stone portion of the Parish Hall was added by John C. Tucker in 1835. James Renwick, Jr. the famed architect of the “Castle” of the Smithsonian Institute and New York’s Grace Church and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, designed the brick addition to the Parish Hall in 1861.
Continuing the tradition of engaging important local architects, St. Mark’s employed Harold Edelman to lead the post-fire restoration of the church following the 1978 fire. Edelman is known primarily as the architect of the Two Bridges Urban Renewal District, a complex on the Lower East Side that mixed 1,500 units of affordable housing with commercial space.