Epiphany 351 Update - February 2021 Manifest
There is a hole in our future church home. Actually, it’s a void that runs up the building for 5 floors. More specifically it’s a flue. During recent demolition we found a long-abandoned chimney. It was abandoned very nearly 100 years ago when the parish house was built. While from the street it may look as if 351 East 74th Street is one building, it is actually two buildings built decades apart. The east building, which is the church, parish hall and a few offices, was built at the close of the 19th century, around 1888. Around 1920 the east building, that is the Parish House that contains five floors of offices, meeting rooms and the gymnasium was built. When the west building was built there was a chimney. When the east building was built that chimney was taken down to the top of the fifth floor and capped. Because of that we never knew it existed. Until we opened up the wall that joins the two buildings into one.
In and of itself that doesn’t seem like a very significant discovery. However, for the Structural Engineer and the NYC Department of Buildings it creates a major problem. When the structural framing was designed to support the renovations and repurposing of the space for the 21st century it was assumed those walls, called Grid Line G, were solid. When it was discovered that they are not, at least in that part of the building, interior work had to be stopped so that the “void” could be evaluated and a plan developed to compensate for the lack of structural support the “void” has caused. That seemingly small, inconsequential discovery of a long abandoned chimney is what I have come to loath. It is an “unforeseen condition.” Meaning, what we had planned to do must now be reengineered and sometimes redesigned to accommodate this “unforeseen condition.”
The property at 351 East 74th Street is a beautiful and historic part of the cultural heritage of the Upper East Side. The NYC Landmarks Commission, the Landmarks Conservancy, and the Friends of the Upper East Side have all stressed to Epiphany that preserving this building is a priority and Epiphany has worked closely with them in developing the plans for its renovation, especially the façade. And, two years into this project, we are staying true to our commitment to make this aging architecturally and culturally significant building a source of pride for our community and for our parish for generations to come.
As with any building built over 100 years ago, 351 is sorely out of compliance with current building codes. Given the extensive renovations we are doing, we are required to bring it up to code. When unforeseen conditions present themselves, we have to go back to the plans we had and adjust and plan a new way forward. That process often involves more time. And, money. But there is no alternative. We must ensure that the building we are restoring will stand for another 100+ years. Our obligation is not only a legal obligation but a moral obligation as well. Two years into this project Epiphany remains committed to creating a building that is structurally sound, fully ADA accessible, and meets the needs and expectations of a 21st century parish and community. Epiphany’s commitment to meeting that obligation has never wavered. Nor will it. While we had expected to move into 351 this month when we started this project, the realities on the ground, also known, as I said above, as “unforeseen conditions,” means we are still 10 +/- months away from completion.
One further update. Everyone agreed that one of the drawbacks to the original design of the Sanctuary at 351 was that the Nave was very dark. The windows were small in proportion to the room and the lack of direct sunlight, such a valued commodity in Manhattan, was very apparent. Part of the redesign of the Nave, Choir and Sanctuary was to bring more natural light into the room. We took a significant step towards that goal recently as the original stained-glass windows were removed and each window opening was significantly lengthened so that the newly commissioned windows could more easily bring light into the room. The pictures accompanying this update shows you that work. Each of the windows on the west and east walls of the church have been redesigned. And the original amber colored stained-glass windows of the Apse have been removed and those openings are being redesigned so as to accommodate Epiphany’s five historic stained-glass windows that have graced the Chapel in our current home since it was built. And, as for the smaller windows on the north wall that you will see in the photos, those windows will be filled in and the wall made whole. This is in preparation of the installation of the commissioned Bigelow Tracker Organ that is in the process of being built and will be installed in 2023. As another old saying goes. “Good things come to those who wait.” I have every confidence that 351 will be well worth the wait.