Sacred Sites Open House

May 16 and 17, 2015

On May 16th and 17th congregations from across New York state opened their doors for the Fifth Annual Sacred Sites Open House –our biggest year ever, with 64 sites open in New York City, another 62 participating sites from Niagara Falls to Sag Harbor, with a total of 3,000 visitors over the course of the weekend!

Click here for a link to the fabulous photos of the weekend submitted for our first-ever Sacred Sites Open House photo contest.

Elizabeth and Tim Mount of Ithaca travelled to NYC for the open house, writing: “Thank you again for yet another eye opening day. Our legs were jelly in the end, but every step was worth it!”

New York City resident Mark Sielucka said: “This is such an important concept and program to offer. These structures will never be built again. We need to find a way to preserve them for future participants and citizens to enjoy.”

Grace Goodman of Judson Memorial Church in the West Village, which had 32 visitors, wrote: “Many people said they’d walked past the church many times and wondered what it looked like inside. We do not have the personnel to staff open hours as a regular matter, so appreciated the little push from you to staff this event.”

There were several reasons for this year’s successful weekend. Regional Denomination leaders, including Bishop Dietsche of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, Cardinal Dolan of the New York Archdiocese, and Bishop Rimbo of the Metro Lutheran synod wrote to acknowledge the importance of the weekend and encouraged member sacred sites to participate. The Episcopal Diocese of New York sent this message to its parishes: This year, open your church for the Sacred Sites Open House Weekend!

We’re happy to report that 25 churches and one Episcopal retreat house in Manhattan, Staten Island, the Bronx, and Westchester heeded the Bishop’s call!

Evergreene, a weekend cosponsor, designed and underwrote 20 beautiful promotional banners. Regional cosponsor PAST, in Binghamton, recruited and promoted 20 beautiful churches and one synagogue, representing 10 different denominations and faith traditions. Binghamton-area Sacred Sites visitors noted: “We didn’t know that there were so many diverse faiths in the area” and “Bringing our son back to Binghamton University, we took notice of the gold domes and wished we could see the interior; finally, this was our opportunity!” In the Buffalo-Niagara region, cosponsors Explore Buffalo helped publicize the 9 participating sites in the Buffalo-Niagara region to its mailing list of 3,100.

This year, for the first time, we offered special pre-booked docent tours of 3 sites, all at no cost to visitors. Laurie Tobias Cohen, Executive Director of the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy, led a special tour of Bialystoker synagogue on the Lower East Side. An insider’s tour of Temple Emanu-El on the Upper East Side was led by Warren Klein, interim curator of synagogue’s outstanding Judaica museum. In Brooklyn, Aquilla Middleton led a special tour of Brown Memorial’s magnificently restored sanctuary and monumental Tiffany “Pilgrim” window.

Other sites used the weekend for advocacy, sponsoring their own lectures and tours highlighting their sanctuary’s art and architecture, including Our Lady of Peace in the Treadwell Farms Historic District, one of several Upper East Side participating sites currently scheduled for merger and closure by the Archdiocese of New York. Our Lady of Peace hosted a tour and lecture by historian and preservation consultant Gregory Dietrich, and along with cosponsor, Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, helped recruit 14 churches and synagogues in the neighborhood, creating an outstanding opportunity for self-guided walking tours.

Morningside Heights’ Notre Dame, this month’s featured “Tourist in Your Own Town” site, made Sacred Sites Open House participation a centerpiece of their Centennial celebration, first approaching us to sign up last December, and hosting specialized tours throughout the weekend which drew more than 70 visitors.

Besides tours, participating sites this year festooned their sites with balloons, signs and banners, hosted book sales, offered free vocal and instrumental concerts and organ recitals, and refreshments.

In April, the Conservancy introduced a welcome video to remind participating Sacred Sites and potential “tourists in their own town” of the benefits of opening their doors to tourists and neighbors. The weekend is an opportunity to broaden community support for their beautiful historic buildings and to publicize important community service and cultural programs. It’s also a rare chance for art and architecture aficionados to access these sites.

Join us for next year’s Open House weekend May 21 & 22nd 2016.


Thank you to all of our friends and members who submitted pictures and voted in the Conservancy’s first Sacred Sites Open House Weekend Photo Contest. From the Bialystoker Synagogue to Our Lady of Peace to St. Stanislaus Church in Rochester and the Church of St. Jean Baptiste, the diversity of the images entered reflects the love and pride we have for our cherished sacred sites all across the City and State.

And the winners are:

1. Richard Silver – A beautiful photo of the Church of Our Lady of Peace.
2. Steve Fisher – A stunning image of the Bialystoker Synagogue.
3. Richard Silver – With another great shot of the Church of Our Lady of Peace.

Congratulations to one and all!!!

Public voting occurred on Facebook from May 19th – May 21st. The contest closed at midnight EDT on May 21st. The winning photos were based on the most “likes” received.

You can view the photo album contest here.


Sites registered in Upstate and Long Island (as of May 14, now with maps!)
Sites registered in New York City (as of May 14, now with maps!)

Each spring, congregations throughout the State open their doors so neighbors can experience first-hand the wonderful art, architecture, and history embodied in New York’s Sacred Sites. Visitors also learn about the crucial social and cultural programming these magnificent religious institutions provide their communities as well.

Sacred Sites Open House Weekend 2015 from New York Landmarks Conservancy on Vimeo.

The annual Open House weekend has three objectives:
• To encourage sacred sites to open their doors to the general public. Inviting visitors is a great way to build broad community support for the ongoing preservation of historic institutions.

• To inspire residents to be tourists in their own town, introducing non-members to the history, art and architecture embodied in sacred places. New Yorkers tour religious sites around the world but may overlook those in their own back yard. Developing cultural tourism is key to the future of sacred sites.

• To publicize the many programs and services religious institutions offer their neighbors. The important work these sites provide benefits the entire community – not just the congregation’s members- and help ensure the congregation’s future.

For more information, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or call 212.995.5260.

Tourist In Your Own Town #39 – Church of Notre Dame – Morningside Heights from New York Landmarks Conservancy on Vimeo.

We are grateful to this year’s Sacred Sites Open House sponsors Acheson Doyle Partners, AIA NY Historic Buildings Committee, EverGreene Architectural Arts, Faith & Form, Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Historic Districts Council, Historic Ithaca, Landmark Society of Western New York, Landmark West!, Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy, Morgan Stanley, OTSEGO 2000, Preservation Association of Central New York, Preservation Association of the Southern Tier, and Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities.

Conservancy President Peg Breen on talking about the open house weekend
Click here to watch the video

Check out our photos from previous Open House weekends.