PORTICO PLACE, Greenwich Village

by Kevin Walsh

No doubt, the handsomest building on West 13th Street in the Village is between 6th and 7th Avenues: Village Presbyterian Church, now residences called Portico Place. Nothing at all was done to alter its exterior when the “conversion” was done in 1982…in fact the old signboard indicating the hymn numbers (from prayerbooks) was kept. The 6 Doric-columned building was finished in 1847, with complete rebuilds in 1855 and 1902 after each successive church burned down; each time, the rebuild exactly matched the original. According to NY Songlines, before the conversion Protestant and Jewish congregations shared the space, but the synagogue moved after a disagreement during the 1973 Israel-Arab war. The church finally moved out in 1975.

In order to pass the stringent dicates of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the exterior couldn’t be altered when the church was converted to residences. Thus, new windows and doors were punched out only on the sides of the building.

In 1884, when pastor Rev. Dr. Samuel D. Burchard spoke at Village Presbyterian in favor of Republican presidential candidate James Blaine (no separation of church and state that year) many Republicans were fed up with Blaine’s accepting favors from said politicians and, calling themselves “mugwumps,” supported the Democratic Party candidate, Grover Cleveland, who was elected twice, with Benjamin Harrison in the White House between his terms. Burhcard called the Democrats the party of “rum, romanism, and rebellion.” Democrats have elected the only two Roman Catholic presidents.

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