Local sites to be explored in Open House New York

Church of the Transfiguration at 1 East 29th Street (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Church of the Transfiguration at 1 East 29th Street (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Open House New York, an annual event that encourages conversations about architecture, public spaces and urban life, will be taking place throughout the city this weekend. Buildings and parks throughout the five boroughs will be participating and a handful of local institutions are opening their doors to the public, with no entrance fees at these participating sites.

Most of the open access sites offering tours this weekend are buildings, including historic landmarks and skyscrapers, but one unexpected offering includes the greenmarket at Union Square. The site serves as an info hub for the event all day on Saturday but is also featured as a site in itself. There will be a behind-the-scenes tour with GrowNYC, the non-profit organization that runs the greenmarket, at 10 a.m. on Saturday to meet some of the farmers who serve as regular vendors that bring fresh produce to New Yorkers.

Church of the Transfiguration at 1 East 29th Street, a neo-Gothic structure with 14th century stained glass, provided sanctuary for African Americans during the Civil War. The church was also the setting for thousands of weddings during World War II.

There are tours in English at 1:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and a tour in Spanish at 1 p.m. There is also a wedding talk and tour at noon. Tours on Sunday at 1 and 2:30 p.m., only in English, and there is a children’s tour at 12:45 p.m.

Marble Collegiate Church at 1 West 29th Street near Fifth Avenue has been opening its doors for Open House New York for the last few years and this year will be offering tours on an as-needed basis between noon and 4 p.m. on Saturday.

The church’s stained glass windows are one of the notable features and two of the windows are Tiffany. One of the church’s rooms has an inlaid labyrinth and the building, a prominent example of Romanesque Revival architecture with Gothic influences, has preserved many of its original features from when it was first built in 1854, including its marble exterior, mahogany pews, cantilevered balconies and bell tower.

Marble has been involved with Open House New York since 2007, participating in the event every year since then except between 2011 and 2013, when the church’s sanctuary was being renovated. Kim Sebastian-Ryan, Director of Membership for the church, said they reached out after hearing about the event and have participated as much as possible since then.

“We have really enjoyed participating and have welcomed many visitors every year over that weekend,” she said.

Grace Church at 802 Broadway, a few blocks south of Union Square, is another featured house of worship opening its doors this weekend. The Gothic Revival church is landmarked and features designs by James Renwick, Jr. and like Marble Collegiate Church also has decorations from Tiffany. The space is open to the public for ongoing tours throughout Sunday afternoon from 1 to 5 p.m.

Although New Yorkers theoretically get the chance to explore spaces that aren’t normally open to the public through the event, many of these exclusive venues require advanced registration and spaces have filled up at many of them, since registration began on October 6. More than a hundred events listed on the website are already full, including tours of the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park South, the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace on East 20th Street and the Masonic Hall at the corner of West 23rd Street and Sixth Avenue.

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