St. Michael's Church
Amsterdam Avenue and 99th Street
Robert W. Gibson, 1891
This gleaming-white limestone church, with its commanding corner tower, red terra-cotta tile roof and Romanesque-arched windows (stained glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany, America's great master of design and decorative arts), together with its adjacent parish house and rectory, is a true landmark on the Amsterdam Avenue skyline. This part of the Upper West Side was pastoral until the construction of the Ninth (Columbus) Avenue elevated train in 1879. To keep up with its growing congregation, St. Michael's replaced its 1854 structure (already the second on the site) with a magnificent new church to seat 1,600. The New York Times remarked on its Romanesque design by architect Robert W. Gibson (who also designed West End Collegiate Church, an anchor of the West End-Collegiate Historic District), calling it "a radical departure from the Gothic architecture of the majority of the city's sacred edifices." The building's light-colored façade also sets it apart from other churches of the day. For example, whereas West-Park Presbyterian Church uses dark-red sandstone, St. Michael's achieves equal monumentality using rough-hewn blocks of Indiana limestone. The Tiffany windows, added in stages after 1895, have been restored along with the interior, which contains more Tiffany-designed elements. The church's website proudly boasts,"[T]hese works represent one of the largest Tiffany installations still intact in its original setting." But it is the remarkably well-preserved exterior (the part of the complex that is eligible for landmark designation) that makes St. Michael's a star to wish upon.