May 21-22, 2016
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Sacred Sites Open House Weekend Surpasses Previous Numbers of Sites and Visitors
On May 21 and 22, congregations all over New York State enthusiastically opened their doors for the Sixth Annual Sacred Sites Open House. This was the biggest year ever with 68 sites in New York City participating and another 101 throughout the state joining in to welcome a total of 8,000 visitors during the weekend.
One visitor brought her two young children to visit the historic Church of the Resurrection on the Upper East Side. “We only live a block away but have never been inside before,” she said. “It’s absolutely beautiful and we plan to come again.”
This church is welcoming even to four-legged visitors according to Father Sean Wallace, the curate at Resurrection, who had marshaled a full complement of volunteers to assist with greeting people. “So many neighbors pass by with their dogs,” he said. “Next year we’ll be sure our signs say pets are welcome.”
A Long Island resident was among the 83 visitors at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. “I’m thrilled to be here,” she said. “Next year I have a European trip planned and, if it conflicts,” I’m going to change the trip dates so I don’t miss the weekend.”
Another attendee who visited Christ Church in Riverdale praised the New York Landmarks Conservancy for “providing such a wonderful opportunity,” while St. Saviour’s in Syracuse reported “great success with a dramatic improvement on the number of visitors over last year,” and St. Anselm’s in the Bronx thanked the Conservancy for its support and noted that their pre-booked tour was “a hit.”
This year’s Sacred Sites Open House weekend included special pre-booked tours at ten sites, covering all New York City boroughs. At St. Anselm’s in the Bronx, the special tour was led by the consultants guiding exterior and interior restoration: architect Harold Martinez and conservator R. Dario Cano. At Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Andrew E. Henderson, Director of Music and the church organist, led the tour and played the organ. At Christ Church New Brighton, Staten Island, historian Barnett Shepherd showed visitors the magnificent stained glass windows by artists including Tiffany, Fredrick Lamb, Lamb Studios, Gorham Studios, Nicola D’Ascenzo and Valentine d’Ogries.
Cornwall Quaker Meeting House in Cornwall reported that some visitors said they had driven by for years and wondered about the building. According to Carol, a member of the congregation, “the statewide event gave the local newspaper a good story and gave local folks an easy way to come in and see old hand-hewn beams and ask questions. Thank you and your team for the hours that went into cataloging, uploading, and mapping the information that made the Sacred Sites event work.”
Another part of the weekend’s success is due to denomination leaders around the state, with several sites participating this year for the first time. A shout-out for their help recruiting both sites and visitors goes to regional partner cosponsors of the New York Landmarks Conservancy including the Preservation Association of the Southern Tier, Preservation Association of Central New York and Historic Albany, and in New York City, the Art Deco Society, LESPI, Landmark West, and many others. The Museum at Eldridge Street waived admission for Conservancy visitors and posted about other participating sites throughout the prior week. In Canton in northern New York, a grassroots effort enlisted multiple historic sites. The listing in the Spare Times section of The New York Times brought out many new visitors.
In addition to tours, both pre-booked and self-guided, many participating sites added special touches including food and beverages, book sales, family activities and concerts.
We’re delighted that 169 churches, synagogues, temples, and meeting houses throughout the city and state opened their doors so that visitors could explore their wonderful architecture and artwork and also learn about the important cultural and social programs these institutions provide.
Join us for next year’s Sacred Sites Open House the weekend of May 20 and 21, 2017.
This year’s Open House Weekend celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Sacred Sites Program.