All Saints Church has a rich history. Its origins lie in the Free Chapel founded by St. Thomas Church on May 2, 1858, in downtown Manhattan. When St. Thomas Church prepared to move uptown ten years later to its present site on Fifth Avenue and 53rd, the little chapel moved to a midtown location, and finally on October 4, 1872, to its current site. Bishop Horatio Potter laid the cornerstone of this third St. Thomas Chapel, as it was then known. Vestry member George Kemp donated $15,000 toward the purchase of three lots on 60th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues on which the church is currently located. The chapel was later torn down, and in 1894 a new one constructed and consecrated by Bishop Henry Codman Potter. In 1921, adjacent property at 234 East 60th Street was bought, to become the vicarage and now the rectory, home of the rector.
It was not until the 1960’s that the parish secured its independence, and its new name of All Saints Church was first used at Easter, 1963. The legal transfer of independence came on April 14, 1965, when deeds to the properties of the 60th St. church were transferred. On May 11, 1965, All Saints Church was admitted into the Diocese of New York at its annual convention.
In the course of its history, the neighborhood surrounding All Saints has evolved from farmland to industrial to urban residential, and a changing population surrounds the church, business and industry embedded in the area’s residential nature. Throughout the dimensions of growth and transformation, All Saints has remained a steadfast presence in the neighborhood, a place of worship and service to God. Music has been and continues to be a centerpiece of worship here, and outreach to the poor is a priority of the community.
A fascinating book describing the fullness of All Saints’ history up to 1972, from which this short summary was gleaned, is available for viewing in the parish office. It’s entitled All Saints Church: A Century of Service in New York City.
Below is an interesting article from The New York Times, dated 7/29/2001, about the facade and history of the Church.
Renovation at All Saints Episcopal; 1894 Church Will Receive New Facade, Its Third
As an architectural apple, All Saints Episcopal Church fell pretty far from the tree.
It was built in 1894 at 230 East 60th Street as a mission chapel of St. Thomas Church at Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street, which was then, as it is now, a powerful Gothic sanctuary.
St. Thomas Chapel, on the other hand, was a modest melange by C. E. Miller; a pinch of Gothic, a bit of Romanesque. What charms it had were eradicated in a 1950's renovation. Lancet windows were eliminated, the facade was smothered in stucco, a thin aluminum cross was attached and the rose window was replaced by an abstract composition.
''It became a truly forgettable presence,'' said the Rev. Steven J. Yagerman, the rector of All Saints since 1993, whose 14-year-old daughter, Sarah, asks, ''Why can't we have a pretty church?''
Father Yagerman said houses of worship must be attentive to the face they present to the public. ''If it looks like they haven't done anything to keep themselves up in the last 10 years,'' he said, ''you move on.''
Now, thanks to fund-raising within the parish and generous bequests from two parishioners, All Saints can undertake a $1.3 million renovation, to be finished next year, that will include air-conditioning the church, a specific request of one donor; making it accessible for the disabled; and, finally, replacing that facade. (The aluminum cross is already gone.)
Samuel G. White of Buttrick White & Burtis, who has been working for several years with All Saints to develop a master plan for its building, decided not to try replicating the original 1894 design.
''That was, at the time, referred to as Renaissance style, a name attached to any collage of classical elements,'' Mr. White said. ''I didn't feel as though the world would be a better place if I recreated it.'' He also noted that the interior had been remodeled in the 1920's, meaning the building had become a ''different church inside and outside.'' It is different in another sense. St. Thomas Chapel took the name All Saints in 1963 and became an independent parish in 1965.
Mr. White turned for inspiration in part to the ''carpenter Gothic'' of Alexander Jackson Davis, a leading 19th-century American architect, and in part to the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, which has a corduroy-like facade of narrow strip pilasters.
It would not have been possible within the church's budget to create such a facade in pure stonework. Instead, it will be made of a cementlike substance combining powdered stone and mica aggregate that can be tooled to resemble carved stone.
The abstract rose window will be replaced with a figurative window, 10 feet in diameter, depicting the resurrection of Jesus. It is by Sylvia Nicolas, an artist whose father, Joep Nicolas, was a renowned stained-glass designer in the Netherlands and New York.
A wrought-iron fence, lampposts, plantings and new signboards will also enhance its street presence. ''When you're walking past,'' Mr. White said, ''you're going to have to stop.''