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Manhattan, NY

Historic Preservation Study

fifth ave presbyterian church


Designed by Carl Pfeiffer in 1875, the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church is the largest Presbyterian sanctuary in Manhattan. Over the years and after many additions and alterations, it became apparent that little attention had been paid to the interior preservation of this Victorian Gothic landmark. Ford 3 was asked to examine the sanctuary, identifying the historic features, recommending methods of preservation, and warning about harmful practices that could permanently damage valuable features. In order to assess the current condition of the structure, Ford 3 assembled consultants to assist in the report including Keystone Preservation Group, Robert Silman Associates, Marshall/ KMK Acoustics, Fisher Marantz Stone and Princeton Engineering Group. 

Review of historical documentation, finish analysis, and archival research indicated the treatment of the sanctuary over time. Although the general shape of the sanctuary, floor plan, and a vast majority of the woodwork, furniture, and windows date to the original construction, two comprehensive refinishings, one in 1912 and the other in 1950, altered key elements such as the paint scheme, the addition of a choir loft, and the change of light fixtures in the church. No critical issues were identified, however, a comprehensive list of priorities and recommendations was compiled to assist in the maintenance of the existing historic fabric and to improve the current structure. Maintenance recommendations were made for cleaning of the stained glass and woodwork. Suggestions were also made to survey and repair the stained glass windows, improve lighting , HVAC, and acoustics throughout the sanctuary. 

In 2010, Ford 3 completed a stained glass assessment of the balcony window designed by G. Owen Bonawit in Kirkland Chapel, constructed by James Gamble Rogers in 1925. The window was severely bowed. The window was subsequently removed, releaded and reinstalled in 2011. Since that time Ford 3 has been involved in a comprehensive survey of the exterior stained glass windows of the Sanctuary, and a survey of the exterior brownstone of the Sanctuary and Church House cast stone. Vertical Access and Robert Silman Associates played key roles in our project team. The comprehensive assessment established priorities and laid out a plan for the multi-phase restoration of the exterior. The next phase of the restoration involves structural reinforcement of the rose window in the Sanctuary which will be completed in 2013. 

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