Grace Church

Art & Culture | History

Historic French Gothic Revival Church Designed by a now Famous 23-Year-Old

Grace Church East Village

About Grace Church

 & why it made the Carpe City list

Built in the French Gothic Revival style, Grace Church is known as “one of the city’s greatest treasures.”

  • Grace Church‘s founders purchased the land from the prominent Brevoort family.  When it came time to choose an architect, instead of going with an established firm, the church chose to go with a relatively unknown 25-year old architect named James Renwick Jr.  He just so happened to be Henry Brevoort’s nephew. Amazing coincidence!
  • The gamble paid off as Renwick created this beautiful building you see before you and went on to develop a few other structures you might know, such as St Patrick’s Cathedral, the Smithsonian in DC, and Vassar College.
  • The stone used to build the church came from Sing Sing – yes, that Sing Sing. In fact, the white marble was quarried by inmates at the Sing Sing prison.
  • Until very recently, directly across the street at 799 Broadway stood another Renwick Jr. production called the St. Denis Hotel. Sadly, after 165 years, it was demolished to make way for new glass box lofts.  We wanted to note the original building not so much for its architecture but for its history.  It’s been host to numerous historical figures: Alexander Graham Bell had his first public demonstration of the telephone here, artist Marcel Duchamp lived in the hotel for the last twenty years of his life, Buffalo Bill and P.T. Barnum also spent time here and lastly, it was here that Mark Twain helped Ulysses S. Grant write his memoirs.
St. Denis Hotel at 799 Broadway by Renwick (before demolition) Image Courtesy of New York Historical Society

Carpe City Trivia

What exactly is Gothic Revival Architecture?

For those of us who what to know just enough about architecture to play along on Jeopardy, here is the scoop on Gothic Revival:

  • It is called Gothic “Revival” because it looks like Medieval Gothic architecture but most likely dates to the mid to late 1800’s or early 1900’s.
  • You can spot Gothic Revival style by these features:
    • The doors and windows have pointed arches.
    • The stone roofs are arched – known as vaults
    • If you see a tower, or a tower with a spire, you’re most likely looking at Gothic Revival.
    • The doors and windows, and inside fireplaces, tend to have ornamental carvings, and, if you’re lucky, maybe even a gargoyle.
    • Stained glass windows are also de rigueur of this style.
  • Not just a style of architecture for cathedrals and universities, you can also find Gothic Revival homes, many of which are notable for their wooden “gingerbread” style trim.


By: Christi Scofield & Contentify
Photography by:

Anne Crays, Christi Scofield, and NYHS

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