by Christian Rowe

This past week I’ve been exploring the religious buildings of the Upper West Side and comparing them to my church, Pilgrim Father Church under Archbishop Roy E. Brown in Brooklyn, which was built in 1961. I noticed that my church has a big tower pointing toward the sky like I’ve seen on many Catholic churches. This didn’t surprise me since I already knew that the Catholic Church has helped to define architectural traditions in Christianity for a very long time. However, different faiths have different building traditions. Islamic buildings, for example, often have a dome on the top of a polygon building. Buddhist buildings often have more than one roof stacked on top of each other. On my journey through the Upper West Side, I tried to visit places of worship for several different faiths.
I started my journey at St. Michael’s Church on West 99th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. This building has been around since 1890 – over a century! Since then this church has been known on the Upper West Side for its beautiful Tiffany stained glass windows. When I entered the chapel it was dark inside, but with the sun popping through the Tiffany windows I was stunned in amazement. I just stood still and stared at them.

After this visit I moved on to the Islamic culture to study one of their buildings. I chose to visit the Masjid Malcolm Shabazz Mosque on the corner of 166th Street and Lennox Avenue. This building is known for the big green dome on top. Formerly the Lennox Casino, this building was turned into a mosque for the nation of Islam and was known as Temple 7.  Famously, this is the mosque where Malcolm X preached to his people. 

Even before its use as a religious center, the building featured commercial store fronts for small businesses in the neighborhood. Today, these businesses include a pharmacy, a shoe repair, and a barber shop. The businesses continued to be a part of the building through its conversion to a mosque for the reason being that during this time Malcolm encouraged his congregation of black Muslims to stick together in one tight community. After his assassination this building was renamed Masjid Malcolm Shabazz Mosque in his honor. Today the building is still being used as a mosque and for commercial businesses.
These journeys have widened my perspective of buildings in New York as I’ve learned how to see how each building (religious or not) has its own architectural identity. The Upper West Side has a bunch of hidden jewel buildings and thanks to LANDMARK WEST! I’ve discovered the religious jewels.
Pictures (from top to bottom)
1. Pilgrim Father Church, Bushwick, Brooklyn
2. St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, Detroit, Michigan
3. Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, Israel
4.Tōdai-ji, Nara, Japan
5. St Michael’s Church, Upper West Side, Manhattan
7. Malcolm X
8. Masjid Malcolm Shabazz Mosque, Harlem, Manhattan
Share This