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St Martin's Episcopal Church

Central Harlem

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The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission named this granite structure "undoubtedly the handsomest example" of the Romanesque Revival architectural style in all of Manhattan (Landmarks Preservation Commission Designation Report, 1970, page 3). Hearkening back to European buildings of the eleventh century, this church design by William A. Potter was built from 1887-89. Two fires, the latest in 1939, caused extensive damage to the building, leaving only the stone walls standing.

Restoration each time speaks to the strong resolve of the congregation of St. Martin's. In the late 1940's, the members of the church commissioned the manufacture and installation of a 42-bell carillon in the tower. This largest of percussion instruments, manufactured in the Netherlands and installed in 1949, is the second largest in New York City. The church involves itself with the secular side of neighborhood life as well -- the St. Martin's Federal Credit Union is the oldest such institution affiliated with a church. The Credit Union was founded in 1937 by Reverend John H. Johnson to make it possible for African-Americans to obtain mortgages and acquire real property, thus empowering them in a segregated society.

The church has gained popularity with Japanese tourists in recent years as a site for wedding ceremonies.

Sites & Attractions: Churches Sites & Attractions: Historic Sites & Attractions Central Harlem

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