The ruins of an 1848 church on East 12th Street
You can see it from Fourth Avenue as you approach East 12th Street: a weathered gray stone facade with enormous arched stained glass windows topped by a tower.
It all feels right out of the Middle Ages. But when you get closer, something’s amiss—the rest of the church is missing.
Instead, there’s a 26-story dorm built by New York University, with a couple of benches on the other side of the thin facade, where the sanctuary of the church should be.
The story of this shell of a church on a tidy East Village block begins in 1848, when the original church, the Twelfth Street Baptist Church, was constructed, according to David W. Dunlop’s 2004 book, From Abyssinian to Zion.
Congregants at St. Ann’s razed the original church building except for the facade and tower. They commissioned architect Napoleon Le Brun to construct a Gothic church sanctuary stretching all the way to 11th Street, which was dedicated in 1871, wrote Dunlop.
For decades, St. Ann’s remained a Roman Catholic church and school. (At left, in 1914; Below, in 1975)
Twenty years later, the Archdiocese of New York announced that St. Ann’s was closing for good. A developer then bought the building with plans to bulldoze it and put up a dorm.
Despite an outcry from preservationists and neighborhood residents who didn’t want to see the lovely church turned into a pile of rocks, St. Ann’s was torn down in 2005 (along with an 1840s rectory building next door).
In something of a victory for the city, the developer left the slender 1848 facade and tower.
They stand disembodied from their sanctuary and strangely unconnected to the dorm behind it…and the street they’ve called home for 171 years.
[Fourth photo: MCNY X2010.11.5283; Fifth Photo: MCNY 2013.3.2.1560]