FINDINGS AND DESIGNATION
On the basis of a careful consideration of the history, the architecture, and other features of this building, the Landmarks Preservation Commission finds that St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church has a special character and a special historical and aesthetic interest and value as part of the development, heritage, and cultural characteristics of New York City.
The Commission further finds that, among its important qualities, the richly ornamented, polychrome St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church was built in 1902-04 to the design of William W. Renwick based on Italian Gothic prototypes, an unusual source of stylistic inspiration for buildings in New York City; that, named after the 16th-century Italian St. Aloysius Gonzaga, the church was organized in 1899 by Rev. John A. McKenna and constructed during a church- building campaign in Harlem to accommodate the growing immigrant population, the original congregation made up mostly of German, Irish, and Italian immigrants; that W.W. Renwick, nephew of noted architect James Renwick, Jr., joined his uncle’s firm in 1885, became a junior partner in 1890, and in his work in that firm and its successors, and in independent practice after 1900, he specialized in ecclesiastical architecture and decoration, with St. Aloysius being considered one of his most important commissions; that the intricate facade of St. Aloysius 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, the design also featuring four sculptural reliefs depicting the Holy Family, the head of Christ, and angels, set on cobalt blue backgrounds; that it is a very early example in New York City of the use of polychromatic architectural ceramic, with noted critic Montgomery Schuyler praising the color and decorative scheme and Renwick’s handling of the terra cotta; that in 1935, in response to the changed demographics of Harlem, St. Aloysius became a mission church for the conversion of African-Americans to Catholicism, but in 1947 the parish ceased its mission status and again became independent; and that St. Aloysius, with its handsomely decorative polychrome facade, is one of New York City’s most distinctive Catholic church designs.
Accordingly, pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 74, Section 3020 of the Charter of the City of New York and Chapter 3 of Title 25 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designates as a Landmark St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church, 209-217 West 132nd Street, Borough of Manhattan, and designates Manhattan Tax Map Block 1938, Lot 124, as its Landmark Site.
Commissioners: Robert B. Tierney, Chair; Pablo E. Vengoechea, Vice-Chair Steven F. Byrns, Joan Gerner, Roberta Brandes Gratz, Margery Perlmutter, Thomas F. Pike, Jan Hird Pokorny