I had no idea, when I saw a little red-roofed church nestled among the skyscrapers, that I was entering the oldest church on the Upper West Side. Christ and Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church is the result of a series of mergers between some of the oldest parishes in the city. St. Stephen’s Church was founded in 1805 and later merged with the Church of the Advent in 1873. In 1897, the congregation moved to its current location. For a long time, St. Stephen’s was a rival of the nearby Christ Church, since they were both episcopal churches and geographically very close to one another. In 1975, however, after noticing dwindling numbers among the congregations, the two churches combined.
I immediately felt a sense of calm upon entering the quiet space. There is no lobby, and so visitors enter straight into the main body of the church. Eerily glowing stained glass windows line the walls and function both as decorations and memorials. Many of the windows have the names of deceased congregation members worked into them. I was surprised and pleased to find some stained glass at the back of the church commemorating members from the 1800s. The church is clearly a place of history, harmony, and serenity.
In 1887, Father Matthew A. Taylor founded the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, and in 1919, in an effort to accommodate an impressive following, the Roman Catholic Church was moved to its current residence just in front of the School of the Blessed Sacrament. Designed by architect Gustave E. Steinback, the building draws on Gothic Revival styles. The exterior stone facade stands proudly with arched stone ridges, detailed carvings, and heavy wooden doors, but it is the immaculate rose window that presents the most marvels. On the inside, the window is even more awe-inspiring, glowing in a spectrum of soft hues that fill the space with natural light complemented by more stain glass panels on the sidewalls and a beautifully designed tile floor.
Originally designed by architect Stephen D. Hatch for a Methodist church in 1880, this building was taken over by the Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church ten years later. In 1939, the German-founded congregation merged with that of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran to become Grace & St. Paul's Church. Today the church retains its beautiful brownstone facade, a mixture of Gothic and Victorian expression.
The Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity was established in 1868, and moved to its 65th Street location in 1904. The current building was designed by William Schickel in neo-gothic architecture with German influences. The congregation enters through bold red doors on Central Park West. I, however, visited on a day when these doors were shut tight. Nevertheless, I rang the side street doorbell and had the pleasure of being greeted by Bonnie, who works in the office. She was so pleased to show off the sanctuary and quickly unlocked the doors for me to enter. Once inside, it is a sight to behold. True to its name, the Holy Trinity Church has many architectural and decorative trios, including three arches over the chancel, three arms on the altar's cross, and three openings in each bay of upper windows. Bonnie shared with me that the church is especially well known for its integration of music in worship. Their Bach Vespers bring baroque music into the liturgy, with a professional Bach Choir and Bach Players who perform on period instruments. She pointed out the organ built by the renowned Paul Fritts, as well as a second organ, a harpsichord, and a Steinway piano.
Though the congregation was established in 1895, the golden yellow building, designed in the Hungarian vernacular architectural style by Emery Roth, was not completed until 1916. The church is now the oldest in the neighborhood and still holds services in Hungarian every Sunday.
Opened by Bruno and Thierry Gelormini in 1995, Le Charlot offers the tastes and sights of French-owned Corsica complemented by "French attitude. " Light music plays, rattan chairs surround white-clothed tables, and a plethora of natural light consumes the outdoor seating, pushing inside through open windows. Locals and others strolling in from Central Park are happy to dine in this relaxed environment. Loyal to the French bistro image, Le Charlot offers fresh, colorful dishes. A favorite to many, the mussels sit in a white wine sauce, waiting to be ripped open for their concealed treasures. The artichoke special with champagne vinaigrette bares its petals, enticing one to savor every morsel while peeling away to the tender heart. Reds, whites, and greens share a plate for the Caprese salad. Adding to this calm, tasteful atmosphere, the international staff emanates with charm and good spirits, and the manager told me he was "a part of the furniture, " having worked in this restaurant from the bottom to the top. It was clear the staff had become very close, as they laughed and put their arms around each other throughout my stay. "We are a family here, " one explained, "And we are having fun serving people. "When the aspirations of the staff align with the aspirations of the guests, a restaurant is immediately more invigorated, and with bites and an ambiance resembling that of a Mediterranean island, this is the perfect side street gem to evade the fast pace of Manhattan for a little while.
The birth of the JNF began with a dream belonging to Zvi Hermann Schapira, a mathematics professor in Switzerland. He wanted a fund to be developed that could be used by the Jewish people in order to develop their own country. Theodor Herzl, a Viennese journalist, took Schapira's dream and ran with it. In 1901, the fund was created. Since that time, the JNF has planted countless trees, developed communities in need, and helped the Jewish people connect with the land of Israel.