Church of the Holy Apostles
The prominent octagonal spire of the Church of the Holy Apostles is a welcoming landmark among the industrial buildings and red brick towers in the far western blocks of Chelsea. Reputedly a stop on the Underground Railroad, the church has continued its embrace of the unwelcome by starting a soup kitchen in 1982, now the largest in New York City, which serves up to 1000 meals each weekday to the homeless and downtrodden. In 1973, the socially-active and diverse congregation helped establish Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, a gay and lesbian synagogue which still uses Holy Apostles for its Friday evening service. In 1977, the first woman priest in the New York diocese was ordained at Holy Apostles. The Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay priest to be consecrated as a bishop of the Episcopal Church, celebrated and preached on Gay Pride Sunday 2005.
Established in 1836 as a Sunday School, the present building was constructed from 1846-48 to designs of Minard Lefever. In 1853, the Italianate-style structure was extended to the east by 24 feet to provide a chancel, and in 1858 the transepts were added by Richard Upjohn & Son. The wooden spire was covered with slate and the belfry clad in copper in 1908. William Jay Bolton, the noted artist who created the stained glass windows in Brooklyn's Church of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity, fabricated the Tuscan-hued stained glass windows, several of which survived the devastating fire in 1991 that gutted the church interior and destroyed part of the roof and the organ. Following the fire, the congregation decided to rebuild the nave as a flexible space without pews so that it could be used for the soup kitchen. The Church of the Holy Apostles was designated a landmark in 1966 by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.
The organ in Holy Apostles Church was originally built in 1994 for the salon of Castle Shiloah, the residence of Joseph and Marla Mooibroek in Fairview, Texas. In 1996, the castle and organ were offered for sale. Holy Apostles acquired the organ to replace the previous four-manual Casavant Frères organ that had been destroyed by a disastrous fire in 1990. The organ was moved by Manuel Rosales Organ Builders, Inc., of Los Angeles, California.
The Dutch Baroque-style case is made of African Mahogany with hand carvings of French Linden. It is an instrument that tonally is in the French early Romantic style and features a variety of unusual tonal colors. Located in the north transept, the organ has 29 stops distributed over three manuals and pedals, and over 2,400 pipes.