Designation Testimony

Holyrood Episcopal Church-Iglesia Santa Cruz – 715 West 179th Street

Statement of the Historic Districts Council
Public Hearing
Item 1
Holyrood Episcopal Church-Iglesia Santa Cruz – 715 West 179th Street

The proposed designation of a Gothic Revival style church designed by Bannister &
Schell and built in 1911-16 that has played an important role in the Latino/a community of Washington Heights.

HDC thanks the Commission for considering this architecturally and culturally significant building located in a neighborhood with a history that reflects the pattern of immigration to New York City but which lacks sufficient landmarked buildings to honor and acknowledge that history.

Throughout its history, New York City has attracted immigrants fleeing adverse political and economic conditions. Only a few of the City’s neighborhoods reflect this pattern of immigration to the extent of Washington Heights–a neighborhood that every few decades has received immigrants of diverse and varying ethnicities, backgrounds, and cultures.

Since the beginning of the 20th Century, Washington Heights has experienced dynamic demographic changes that mirror not only the socio-economic context of New York City and the Unites States, but also globally. These changes prompted individuals and families to seek safety and opportunity elsewhere.

The cultural significance of the Holyrood Episcopal Church – Iglesia Santa Cruz lies in these changing and enriching demographics. By serving and welcoming newcomers since it was established in 1893, the congregation has greatly contributed to NYC’s multiculturalism.

As noted by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation in a 2004 letter, Holyrood Church has faithfully served the changing populations of Fort Washington, and the history of Washington Heights gives us an idea of how diverse those populations have been:

In the early 1900s an increase in housing development attracted Irish, Eastern European and German immigrants; during World War II many European Jewish people fleeing the Nazi regime settled in this neighborhood; in the 1980’s Russian-Jews moved here to escape the anti-Semitic political climate. After WWII Puerto Ricans, African Americans and Cubans–fleeing Castro’s–regime, migrated to Washington Heights. After the assassination of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo in 1961, Dominicans started to arrive in the neighborhood, and in the last decade of the 20th Century they became the predominant group.

In addition to being embraced by a caring and compassionate congregation, immigrants have been welcomed by this outstanding structure built in 1915 by Bannister & Schell, with well-executed Gothic Revival design elements such as its decorative details, traditional arrangement of nave, and arched stained-glass windows with geometric tracery, as well as other unaltered features that make this church architecturally significant.

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