131 East 10th Street | Block : 466 | Lot #26
Description & Building Alterations
Arguably one of the most historically significant landmarks in the East Village and even the entire city, St. Mark’s Church is one of the major focal points of the neighborhood. The church was built over an extended 55-year period: the main building was constructed of fieldstone in the Georgian style in 1799, the Greek Revival steeple was completed in 1828 by architect Ithiel Town, and the cast-iron, Italianate portico was added in 1854, possibly by architect James Bogardus. The iron fence was added in 1838, likely part of a series of renovations undertaken by architect Martin E. Thompson.
As the oldest continually used place of worship in New York City (and the second-oldest building in Manhattan), this church stands on the site of New Amsterdam Director General Peter Stuyvesant’s Bouwerie Chapel. During Stuyvesant’s controversial tenure as Director General, he did continue the Dutch practice of freeing black slaves and granting them land to farm, much of which was in the vicinity of his own farm and chapel at the location. Stuyvesant is buried along with numerous other notable family members in the Stuyvesant family vault in the churchyard. The church and grounds were designated a New York City Landmark in 1966 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. A fire damaged the church in 1978, and the building was not fully restored until 1986.
The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s was founded in 1966 by poet Paul Blackburn as a successor to the various coffeehouse reading series that had been prevalent in the Lower East Side since 1960. The Poetry Project has served as a venue for new and experimental poetry for over five decades. St. Mark’s Church’s history of activism dates even further back to the 1800s, when it first began championing the arts. St. Mark’s is known for its social justice mission as well as its commitment to the arts, and has been a noted leader in anti-war activity and crusading for civil rights, supporting the Black Panthers in the 1960s and the Black Lives Matters movement in the 2010s. As well, it housed the first lesbian healthcare clinic.
Block : 466 / Lot : 26 / Building Date : 1799-1854 / Original Owner : Episcopal Church / Original Use : Institutional / Original Architect : John McCombe, Jr. (sanctuary); Ithiel Towne and Martin Euclid Thompson (steeple); James Bogardus (portico)