June 1902 for a structure expected to cost $60,000.6 But an item in August in the New York Times stated that the “new brick and stone edifice” would cost $100,000, and that one of the rowhouses owned by the church was “to be altered for use as a rectory.”7 Construction began in November 1902. The Times reported in November 1903 that St. Aloysius, “about completed,” was part of the nearly one million dollars in Roman Catholic church construction then underway in New York City (Protestant churches then being built in the city totaled about three million dollars).8 St. Aloysius was the fourth of seven central Harlem Catholic parish churches that were constructed (or altered) in the late-19th and early-20th centuries to meet the religious needs of the burgeoning immigrant population in the area.9 As completed in March 1904, the church was clad in brick and terra cotta. It was dedicated on April 17 at a ceremony officiated by Archbishop John Murphy Farley. The interior was not fully finished at this time, and four religious sculptural reliefs planned for the front facade had not been installed.
William Whetten Renwick (1864-1933), a nephew of the eminent architect James Renwick, Jr., was born in Lenox, Mass., and graduated from the Stevens Institute of Technology in 1885 after studying mechanical engineering. He also studied sculpture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, and painting in New York, Paris, and Rome. He entered the office of his uncle (then Renwick, [James Lawrence] Aspinwall & [William H.] Russell) in 1885 as a draftsman, and was admitted as a junior partner in 1890. The firm became Renwick, Aspinwall & Renwick in 1892; after the senior Renwick’s death in 1895, it became Renwick, Aspinwall & [Walter T.] Owen, with Aspinwall as senior partner. Aspinwall (1854-1936), born in New York City, had entered the office of James Renwick (a cousin of his wife) as a draftsman in 1875, and became a partner in 1883.
In his uncle’s office, William Renwick had participated in several church commissions, including St. P a t r i c k ’ s R o m a n C a t h o l i c C a t h e d r a l ( 1 8 5 3 - 8 8 ) , F i f t h A v e n u e a n d E a s t 5 0 t h S t r e e t , a n d C h u r c h o f A l l S a i n t s ( R o m a n C a t h o l i c ) ( 1 8 8 9 - 9 3 , R e n w i c k , A s p i n w a l l & R u s s e l l ) , 4 7 E a s t 1 2 9 t h S t r e e t , f o r w h i c h h e i s c r e d i t e d working out the details of his uncle’s general design.11 He was the architect of the neo-Classical style Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul (1891-92), Indianapolis. In his independent practice after 1900, he specialized in ecclesiastical architecture and decoration. Among his major commissions were St. Aloysius R. C. Church (1902-04); Church of All Saints School (1902-04), 50-52 East 130th Street; and, at Grace Church (Episcopal), the south porch and open-air pulpit (1910), and alterations to the Chantry (1879, Edward T. Potter).12 He is credited with developing the decorative mural process of “fresco relief” which utilizes both sculpture and painting (this technique was employed on the north wall of the interior of St. Aloysius in 1911). w i t h
With Aspinwall and Fitz Henry Faye Tucker (dates undetermined), he established the firm of Renwick, Aspinwall & Tucker in 1905. Little is known of Tucker, who became an architect in New York by 1904; his association with Renwick and Aspinwall lasted until 1925 (after which the firm continued as Renwick, Aspinwall & [Shirley R.] Guard). Among the commissions the firm received, executed in Gothic and neo- Classical styles, were the Grace Church Neighborhood House (1906-07), 98 Fourth Avenue;13 Provident Loan Society Buildings (1908-09), 61 East 25th Street and 734 Seventh Avenue; American Express Co. Building (1914-17, Aspinwall credited with the design),14 65 Broadway; Seaview Hospital, Sanitarium additions (1917), Staten Island,15 Pictorial Review Co. Building (1919; demolished), Seventh Avenue and West 59th Street; Dollar Savings Bank (1919), Willis Avenue and East 147th Street, Bronx; and Lawyers’ Mortgage Co. Building (1921-22; demolished), 56 Nassau Street.
The Design of St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church
The design of the richly ornamented, polychrome St. Aloysius R. C. Church is based on Italian Gothic prototypes, not often seen as the source of stylistic inspiration for buildings in New York City. It appears to have been most directly influenced by the 19th-century main facade of the Duomo (Cathedral) (1867-86, Emilio de Fabris) in Florence, Italy, which was executed in polychrome marble and inspired by the polychrome facades of Italian Gothic cathedrals such as Siena and Orvieto. St. Aloysius is articulated with a monumental pedimented central section, flanked by pilasters, with a Gothic-arched entrance pavilion surmounted by a rose window, and side aisle sections having entrances, end pilasters, and terminating cornices following the slope of the roof. The intricate facade consists of alternating bands of red brick, celadon-colored glazed brick (by the Grueby Faience Co.), and glazed “granitex” (with the color and texture of grey granite) terra cotta with cobalt blue accents (by the New York Architectural Terra Cotta Co.) in a wide variety of molded motifs.17 The design