St. Stephen’s church in Marble Hill wins preservation award


A small house of worship in Marble Hill will soon get a big honor.

Last week, The New York Landmarks Conservancy announced that St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church is among 12 buildings that will receive its Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award for helping “renew the beauty and utility” of the City’s distinctive architecture in 2010.

The list of recipients include major institutions such as the restructured New York Public Library on 5th Avenue, the Liberty Tower at Liberty Street near Broadway, the Belasco Theater on West 44th Street and the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School on Governor’s Island.

“There’s some real luminaries on that list, big institutions, and here’s this little church in Marble Hill,” said Jim Taylor of Anik Pearson Architect, who worked on the project.

Mr. Taylor said the restoration was an “unlikely project” for his firm, which works almost entirely in residential architecture. But after visiting the beaten up church, he said he wanted to get involved.

“It’s a really significant building. It’s a unique survivor and I thought (goodness, we’ve really got to fight for this project),” he said.

The 113-year old church, located at 146 W. 228th St., was rededicated in October 2010 after years of hard work to restore it to its original design. Beginning in 2008, Rev. Nathaniel Dixon and a group of dedicated churchgoers formed a restoration committee to completely reconstruct the dilapidated and weathered church that had not been touched for more than 50 years.

They raised funds and the church received gifts from the Park Avenue United Methodist Church Trust Fund, the United Methodist City Society and The New York Landmarks Conservancy, which gave a $25,000 grant toward the restoration.

Longtime member and restoration Chairman Urban Ellis and architect Mr. Taylor found copies of the building’s original 1898 design in the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library at Columbia University. Mr. Taylor and Vincent Lepre, director of Fifty Three Restorations, Inc., followed the plans meticulously, placing jigsawed and dog toothed shingles exactly where they had once been.

This dedication to unearthing and following the details was a major reason The New York Landmarks Conservancy chose the project for the award, officials said. Another was the community effort that made the project possible.

To raise money, the restoration committee organized a shingle campaign, selling off old shingles and letting people sign the backs of newly installed ones for a small fee.
Rev. Dixon called it a “real team effort” he will never forget and was grateful to all who contributed.

There will be a ceremony on Wednesday, April 27 at 6 p.m. at the Church of St. Francis Xavier, one of the other winners, located at 46 W. 16th St. To purchase tickets, go to or call 212-995-5260.

Marble Hill, The New York Landmarks Conservancy, St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church