Unbuilt: Cathedral of St. John the Divine Original Design

Original Plan For St. John The Divine

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine is a great and beautiful landmark inside, but its exterior leaves much to be desired, particularly its surroundings, which were supposed to be green open space as shown in this picture. Currently, there are parking lots, construction equipment, and a huge stoneyard, which is currently under litigation. The structure is missing most of its towers, including the main one. It is said that to finish it would cost $100 million, and possibly take as long as for the originals in Europe, i.e. several hundred years. We hope not, particularly since our other great local church, Riverside Church, is already finished, thanks to modern construction techniques and Rockefeller money.

The Cathedral began with a design contest in 1888, won by the architectural firm of Heins & LaFarge. Due to the difficult site, which required a vast foundation and crypt, dedication of the first small section was only possible in 1911. By this time, the Byzantinesque aspects of the interior had become unfashionable and were modified in the direction of English Perpendicular Gothic. Upon the death of Heins in 1907, architect Ralph Adams Cram was brought in and began to take the great nave in a French Gothic direction.

Other Historic Pictures | Contemporary Pictures | Home | Next