Sacred Sites Open House

2018 Sacred Sites Open House May 5-6, 2018


-St Jean Baptiste (New York City) Canticum Novum Singers


-Blessed Trinity Roman Catholic Church by Al Lowman


-St. Joseph Church Troy, NY by Virginia G.Madore


-Plymouth Church, Brooklyn by Steve Fisher


-St Vincent Ferrer, by Charles Schreiber


-Islamic Org of the Southern Tier

Visitors from near and far turned out May 5th and 6th for the Conservancy’s eighth annual Sacred Sites Open House. More than 140 religious sites statewide opened their doors, welcoming ten thousand music and architecture aficionados. That’s a 25% increase over last year. This year’s theme, Sacred Sounds and Settings, was an opportunity for congregations to showcase music programs as well as architecture, with organ demonstrations, vocal and instrumental concerts, recitals, rehearsals, and special tours.

Twenty-six sites were participating for the first time this year, including five of the 24 Binghamton-area institutions. Johnson City’s Islamic Organization of the Southern Tier was one of the new sites.

“Cameras were constantly clicking,” reported Blessed Trinity Catholic Church in Buffalo, which welcomed visitors from Canada, Tennessee, and Belize.

On Sunday, a sold-out Discover Brooklyn! tour led by Marianne Hurley, an architectural historian with the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, described the social causes associated with many Brooklyn religious buildings. Plymouth Church, for instance, served as a stop or short-term transfer station on the Underground Railroad, during the tenure of founding pastor Henry Ward Beecher.

First-time participating site St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Troy, an 1853 church with 42 stained glass windows fabricated by the Tiffany studios, offered 108 visitors musical offerings and architectural tours. Paul Coffey, St. Joseph’s sacristan (sexton), shared that their participation was a “very very positive” experience, and that the church will “do it again in a heartbeat.”

Click Here to See Photos from Open House 2018

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Schuylerville, near Saratoga Springs, a Gothic Revival church dating from 1868, was observing its 150th birthday and arranged a concert of sacred and secular music from the 1860’s. In addition to anniversary-period music, the enthusiastic audience sang along with hymns.

Many visitors enjoyed the beautiful garden at St. Luke in the Fields in Greenwich Village.The church featured an organ demonstration preceded by a piano performance. Music Director David Schuler explained that, prior to electricity, choirboys hand-pumped the bellows. Schuler displayed his organists’ shoes that are narrow, with one-inch heels and slippery soles, to facilitate playing the organ’s pedals.

In Amenia, in Dutchess County, visitors to Smithfield Presbyterian Church, a marvelously intact temple-fronted Greek Revival church dating from 1847-1848, were fascinated by the organ demonstration by Dr. Hampson Sisler, an opthomologist, classical composer, and Smithfield’s co-organist since 2016. Sisler performed, and then took requests, which became sing-alongs, to the delight of all.

At St. Vincent Ferrer on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Director of Music James D. Wetzel welcomed a large group before turning the program over to recent Julliard graduate and Assistant Organist, Alexander Pattavina, who demonstrated the instrument’s range and invited visitors up to the keyboard to see him in action.

You don’t have to be religious to enjoy the Sacred Sites Open House. This sentiment was shared by a visitor who attended pre-booked tours at Lower East Side synagogue Kehila Kedosha Janina and venerable Madison Square landmark Marble Collegiate Church. “I love getting to view religious facilities up close,” she said, “without attending a religious service.” “Great program!, she added.

“This is my third year of participating, and I will continue to do so and recommend it to my friends.”

Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s Open House. Join us for next year’s Sacred Sites Open House May 18 & 19, 2019!

Check here later this year for more details as the Open House approaches.

If you are not already on the Conservancy’s email list, be sure to drop us a line at sacredsites@nylandmarks.org to ensure you receive email updates about Sacred Sites Open House.