St. George’s Church Receives "Sacred" Grants
The New York Landmarks Conservancy has announced 23 Sacred Sites Grants totaling $294,500 awarded to historic religious properties throughout New York state including four Robert W. Wilson Sacred Sites Challenge Grants to the Church of St. Jean Baptiste in Manhattan, St. George’s Church in Flushing, Bedford Park Congregational Church in The Bronx and Emmanuel Baptist Church in Albany.
“You don’t have to be religious to understand that religious institutions contain some of our finest art and architecture. Many also provide vital social service programs and cultural activities that make significant contributions to their communities,” said President of The New York Landmarks Conservancy Peg Breen.
“St. George’s Church in Flushing, Queens was pledged a $25,000 Robert W. Wilson Sacred Sites Challenge Grant for additional masonry restoration involved with a wood steeple and spire restoration project atop the stone tower. The steeple was destroyed during a tornado in 2010 that touched down in Queens and Brooklyn. Past grants have helped support architectural services for emergency stabilization plans after the tornado, and stained glass restoration,” Breen explained.
Prominently sited on Main Street in the heart of Downtown Flushing, St. George’s Episcopal Church is a notable example of Gothic Revival design and was designated a New York City landmark in 2001. Erected in 1853-54, to the designs of Wills & Dudley, this building is constructed of broken-range ashlar-faced granite with brownstone trim. This is the congregation’s third church building on the site since 1746. The church is a rare surviving work in New York City by Wills & Dudley. In 1894, J. King James designed a very contextual chancel wing that matches the vocabulary of the sanctuary. The interior is largely intact and contains exceptional stained glass windows.
A tornado in September 2010 destroyed the wood-frame steeple atop the stone bell tower. Since then, the conservancy provided an emergency grant to help support stabilization and temporary repairs to, and protection for, the tower and church interior while the congregation mobilized to restore the wooden spire. The church worked with former Flushing resident and preservation architect Kai Woo, to develop the second phase of the project: spire restoration. The temporary repairs allowed time for the church to investigate the condition of the masonry and other tower details below the steeple. After realizing that it, too, will require restoration, church leadership decided to take advantage of the scaffolding in place for the tower work. While the spire restoration will be covered by an insurance settlement, this masonry restoration will not. The non-covered work includes restoring the brownstone trim and details with composite patching; restoring wood louvers or shutters on the tower with composite and Dutchman patching, and repairing window tracery. The city’s LPC is also requiring that the project restore four “finials” originally located on the four corners of the stone tower but which were long-ago lost. This portion of the project is also not covered by insurance. Using historic photographs as evidence, the spires will be recreated in glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC). While, originally, the wood-frame tower was constructed in-situ, Kai’s design allows for the new spire to be pre-fabricated off-site in stages to address the logistical difficulties of the long-term parking of a crane on Flushing’s densely populated Main Street.
The church is located on Main Street, the thriving, busy commercial thoroughfare of Flushing’s Chinatown. The congregation consists of three equally active congregations attending various weekly services in English, Spanish and Mandarin. The leadership comprises a joint vestry elected from members of each of the three congregations. In addition to church activities, the building is used for counseling, English classes, musical events, art exhibitions, ballet classes, after-school programs and as an assembly place for large public events.