Fabulous 57th Street, just south of Central Park, is relatively unplumbed territory for me, though I have been fascinated in the past with the block between Broadway and 7th Avenue. As a matter of fact I’m rather more familiar with stretches of 57th Street in Maspeth, Queens than I was with its more familiar namesake. But, having read that Rizzoli is likely on the way out from its pleasant alcove on 57th, I resolved to walk along the stretch from 1st Avenue west to 8th Avenue and see what there is of interest.
What I found between 6th and 7th Avenues, at 123 West 57th, was a church occupying the bottom floors of a hotel. The unaffiliated Calvary Baptist Church was established in 1847 and has been in this location since 1883, when it was seated in a red sandstone church designed by John Rochester Thomas. Since 1931, the church’s home has been in this 16-story stone skyscraper, where it is accompanied by the Salisbury Hotel.
I was unaware that the ‘skyscraper church’ is a genre, but this building has noteworthy predecessors, such as the Chicago Temple Building and the William Taylor Hotel and Temple Methodist Episcopal Church in San Francisco. Nevertheless you learn something new every day, and I was surprised to find ecclesiastic-style lettering on the ground floor of “just another” tall building on 57th.
Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton have visited the church, as well as famed preachers Billy Graham and Billy Sunday. Concert pianist Van Cliburn attended services here and donated two Steinway pianos. The current [January 2014] pastor, David Paul Epstein, is the brother of TV personality Kathie Lee Gifford.