The church was designed by the Boston firm of Allen & Pollens with local architect Henry C. Pelton of New York and financed by John D. Rockefeller Jr. The architects drew inspiration from 13th century Gothic Chartres Cathedral with construction beginning in 1927 and reaching completion in 1930. The exterior buttressing of limestone is decorative as the structure is supported by its steel frame as state of the art skyscraper design was intertwined with more traditional Gothic cathedral design.
Building an ongoing relationship with Riverside Church through Façade Inspection and Safety Program (FISP) work, Henson Architecture is overseeing the Preservation Master Plan. The church faced significant costs to address maintenance related to recurring façade inspection cycles, particularly scaffolding for the bell tower (housing a carillon of 74 bronze bells). To provide the church with a more efficient strategy in dealing with the wear and tear of the region’s freeze/thaw cycles, Henson developed a plan to guide the landmark buildings in a long-term approach to address necessary building repair and ongoing preventive work. In response to the Climate Mobilization Act in New York City, Henson’s plan includes efforts to address carbon reduction through developing environmental systems and tightening the existing building envelope to significantly increase carbon savings. The preservation work provides for the repair of historic fabric for the nationally landmarked building, landscape improvements and accessibility upgrades throughout the church and campus buildings. The observation tower will become accessible for public use so visitors can enjoy the views from Riverside Church. The interdenominational church is known for its role in social and political activism. Henson’s work will provide for the stewardship of the campus, buildings and landscape to ensure its long-term future.
October 16, 2019