The Church of the Intercession
550 West 155th Street (@Broadway)
New York, NY 10032
When visiting Washington Heights and its wide range of houses of worship, one must bring to mind the Church of the Intercession, one of the largest and oldest churches in Washington Heights. Located on 155th Street and Broadway, it lies in the same property as the Trinity Cemetery. Its location is a defining point, representing the top border of Harlem, and the bottom of Washington Heights.
This Episcopal church wasn’t the first to arrive in that plot of land. First came the Trinity Church Cemetery. In 1843, it was the idea of the “Rector and Vestry of Wall Street’s Trinity Church” to create a cemetery that was in the country, or so Washington Heights was considered at the time. There was much northward expansion of the New York City population, and there were also sanitation problems that made this cemetery relocation necessary at the time. The rural atmosphere of upper Manhattan had enough space to be able to create this much-needed cemetery. With that, the Trinity Church Cemetery was created.
In 1846, the John James Audubons and the John R. Morewoods who were residents of Carmansville (now Washington Heights) felt that they wanted to hold Episcopal services in their own neighborhood, and that they did. The first services were held in the home of the Morewoods, but with time and with the help of the founders of the future Intercession church, who came from the Church of Ascension on 5th Avenue and 10th Street as well as Trinity Church on Broadway and Wall Street, they were able to establish a permanent structure where they may worship with the rest of the community.
The first church of the Intercession was simple and wooden, and was built on the corner of 154th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. It was Gothic Victorian and a beauty, but unfortunately wasn’t used for that long. In 1872, a new church was built. This new stone building, which was built on 158th street and Grand Boulevard, which is now Broadway, came with many struggles. Financial problems plagued the congregation, which eventually led to the seizure of the building by the sheriff. Ultimately Rev. Dr. E. Winchester Donald gathered support and managed to finish construction.
The church continued to have chronic problems, both financially and physically, soon becoming too small for the growing community. The thirteenth Vicar, Rev. Dr. Milo Hudson Gates knew that he needed more space, and hopefully, more funding from the Trinity Church downtown. With much negotiation and effort, as well as with a state legislation act in 1908, the Church of the Intercession lost its status as an independent church, and became a part of the Trinity Church Corporation.
With the added status and funds, Rev. Gates did all he could to begin construction of a new addition to the church, to be designed by both him and an architect, Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue. With this marvelous combination they were able to create a Gothic Revival Style masterpiece. The cornerstone was laid out in October of 1912, and the church was consecrated in 1915. This beautiful work of art and history has been a part of the National Registrar of Historic Places, as added by the United States Department of the Interior, since July 24, 1980.
For more information on the Church of the Intercession, you may go on its home website: http://intercessionnyc.dioceseny.org/index.html