What’s That Building? The Serbian Orthodox Cathedral Of St. Sava

Alyssa Rinaldi – 3/12/2012

There are some buildings that just don’t seem to fit on this rather cramped island of ours. One of these buildings is the Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Sava. Similar to the house of the little old man in UP, this church built in the mid nineteenth century has seen the buildings around it creep closer and closer to the sky, but has managed to remain pretty much the same as it has been for over a hundred years.

The Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Sava lies on a block full of shops and office buildings on West 25th Street, and by no means does it fit in with those surroundings. This block of neo-Gothic brownstone buildings sticks out from its modern surroundings, and has stood here since the mid-nineteenth century. Over the years, this church has been passed between religions, yet has survived multiple threats of being town down, and continues to stand today.

Architect Richard Upjohn created the the building as a kind of sister to Trinity Church on Broadway and Wall Street (where Occupy protesters continue to reside). Trinity Church was consecrated in May of 1846, but it began to lose parishioners as they started to migrate uptown.  In order to retain the followers, the Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Sava (Originally Called Trinity Chapel), was opened as an Episcopal church. The church was designed in 1850, and opened its doors that year. In 1870, there was an addition of the Chapel School to the back of the church.

Though the outside is nothing to get too excited about, and has become run-down over time, the interior of the church is spectacular, and has been essentially the same (with renovations) since the opening of the church.

Although the church was constructed at this location in order to keep a following, eventually parishioners began to leave, and the church was almost abandoned in the 1940s. There was no choice but to put the church on the market. It was soon acquired by members of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and became the first church of its type to exist on the east coast.

Though we often see the new take over the old in New York (RIP Asian Pub), occasionally you’ll get a building that endures a major storm, and remains.