The Church of the Intercession, on 155th Street and Broadway, is the finest example of early 20th century Revival or Neo-Gothic architecture in New York City. The present site of the church is the third of a series of locations in Washington Heights.
The first Church of the Intercession was located on 154th Street and Amsterdam Avenue and was opened in the 1850s. The second location of the church was on Broadway and 158th Street, dating from 1900. In 1904 when the IRT Subway opened a large part of the congregation came to the church via the system and the 157th Street station was the nearest stop to the church. The present structure was erected between 1911 and 1914.
The church’s interior is not only massive but beautiful as well. It gives the feeling of a large country church set in the middle of a rural cemetery. Exquisite carvings abound the chapel. The roof is supported by massive beams that give the nave a flavor of a baronial banquet hall with colorful banners. There is also a secret Abbot’s eye above the main altar.
The church is complete with a cloister, vicarage, vestry, parish building, and a crypt. The cloister is detailed and highlighted by an altar with stones from the Holy land and sites of early Christian worship. In the tower is an 850-pound bell which was cast in London. On August 16, 1966, the church was given landmark status by the National Landmark Status Committee for quality of architecture and historical interest.
Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, a member of the architectural firm of Cram, Goodhue, and Furguson, was the architect of Intercession. He also designed the chapel at West Point, St. Thomas Church of Fifth Avenue, and ST. Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue. The Church of The Intercession is known as the “Quintessential Goodhue Church” and was the favorite of the architect. Goodhue is laid to rest in a wall vault in the north vestry of Intercession. Inscribed on his tomb is the following; “Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue MDCCCLXIX MCMXXIV This tomb is a token of the affection of his friends. His great architectural creations that beautify the land and enrich the civilization are his monuments.”
In 1997, Trinity Parish celebrated its 300th Anniversary under a Royal Charter signed by William III of England in 1697. The cost of the charter at the time was one peppercorn per year. In 1976, Queen Elizabeth II came to New York on her historic Bicentennial Tour of American Independence. When she visited Trinity Church, the Ministry had presented her with a symbolic “back rent” of 279 peppercorns commemorating the Royal Charter and its original ties to Great Britain. The Church of the Intercession was part of Trinity Parish of lower Manhattan which includes Trinity Church and St. Paul’s Chapel. Intercession’s parish had come unto itself in 1976 when it was elevated in status from the chapel to church.
The Reverend Canon Frederick B. Williams has been Rector of the Church since 1971. On occasion, Bishop Desmond Tutu of the Anglican Church of South Africa, has come to Intercession to officiate at various church matters. Reverend Earl Kooperkamp also ministers at the church.
Every Christmas the church celebrates the Clement Clarke Moore Candlelight Carol Service. This service was instituted in 1911 by Reverend Milo Hudson Gates who was Rector of the Church at the time. It has become the oldest most widely attended Christmas tradition in northern Manhattan.
The festival honors Moore for his poem “A VISIT FROM SAINT NICHOLAS,” which is read while the children are sitting and listening to it on the altar steps. Special guest readers who have read the poem in the past were; Joyce Dinkins wife of former Mayor David Dinkins, radio and television personality G. Keith Alexander and actor Avery Brooks of the television series Deep Space Nine. Christmas carols are sung during the festival.
At the end of the service, there is a lantern procession to Moore’s grave for a grave-site mass. This culminates with a Christmas Party under a heated tent with refreshments with one of the parishioners dressed as Father Christmas handing out candy to children.
The site of the church is located within the historic Trinity Cemetery of which many of New York’s social elite is buried. Many of the gravesites and mausoleums reflect the lavish lifestyles of these people in death as they lived in life. Many of the architectural styles of the mausoleums built in the cemetery are Neo-Gothic, Victorian, and American Vernacular in design. Trinity cemetery achieved landmark status in 1969.
Such names of this gentry are the Schermerhorn’s, the Astors, and Eliza Jumel of the Morris Jumel Mansion, Mayors Fernando Wood, and A. Oakley Hall and Alfred Tennyson Dickens son of Charles Dickens and novelist. Various residents and property owners also have gravesites at Trinity Cemetery. John James Audubon the naturalist; William Guion, owned property on 177th Street near Fort Washington Avenue and Richard F. Carman a landowner who owned massive amounts of the property immediately south of the cemetery.
For further information on the Church and its activities call (212) 283-6200. The Parish House and offices are located at 555 West 155th Street. Information on Trinity Cemetery can be obtained by calling (212) 602-0787. The website address for the Episcopal Church in the United States is www.ecusa.anglican.org. For information on Trinity Church and the Cemetery, the website addresses are www.trinitywallstreet.org and www.findagrave.com.