As news spread of Saturday’s fire in the 128-year-old Middle Collegiate Church, Ann Friedman’s phone and email started buzzing. Everyone from the church’s architect to the Deputy Counsel at the City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), to preservation colleagues, knew that Ann, our Sacred Sites Director, would have helpful information.
Though the East Village church had not received one of our Sacred Sites grants, Ann quickly put LPC’s John Weiss in touch with the architect, who connected him to Collegiate’s CEO. We have a long history with the 1854 Marble Collegiate Church on Fifth Avenue. After 19 years with Sacred Sites, Ann has an encyclopedic knowledge of City and State religious institutions.
Ann also immediately reached out to the head of the Women’s Prison Association (WPA), which is housed in a landmark known as the Isaac T. Hopper Home, an 1838 Greek Revival townhouse next to Middle Collegiate. Founded in 1845, WPA is the nation’s first service and advocacy organization dedicated solely to working with justice-involved women and their families. Firefighters used the roof of the individual landmark as a staging area while battling the church blaze. The Conservancy provided WPA with referrals to disaster recovery firms to address smoke and water damage.
We’ve been involved with the WPA since 2012, when we gave them a $12,000 Emergency Grant to underwrite a conditions survey and construction documents for the townhouse. Then we matched a $24,500 LPC grant and restored the distinctive brownstone portico and base of the home. We also secured a $5,000 foundation grant which stabilized some original interior finishes. Blaire Walsh, the project and outreach manager of our loan program, oversaw these projects.
By Sunday morning, Weiss sent Ann pictures of the damage to the church. He reported that the landmark townhouse had smoke and water damage, but escaped major structural impacts. He promised to keep Ann informed of decisions on the potential demolition of the church. Church donations website.
We are following up with the WPA as well, where 22 women have been displaced and have lost their belongings. WPA donations.
The popular “Ghostbusters” movie had a catchy theme song that asked, “who ya gonna call?” For preservation emergencies, the answer is: Call us. We’re the “ ghostbusters” of preservation.
With best wishes from all of us for your health and safety,
Peg Breen, President
The New York Landmarks Conservancy