DeWitt Reformed Church, Lower East Side, NYC

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The DeWitt Reformed Church is sited on the corner of Columbia Street and Rivington Street, where Rivington dead-ends in the Baruch Houses public housing complex. It was built in 1956-57. According to the church’s website, when neighboring tenement structures came down under urban renewal and public housing construction, the original 1881 J. Cleaveland Cady-designed church was weakened and a decision was made to build a new church on the site.  The architect was Edgar Tafel, an under-appreciated architect whose modest, modern interventions dot New York City. This website has featured him here, here, here and here.

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Tafel liked to work in brick and this structure complements the adjacent brick public housing towers.  Looking closely, one can tell many of the bricks are second-hand, recovered from previously demolished buildings. Tafel was known to prefer used brick, according to a 1958 New Yorker article written shortly after this church was completed. The wooden cross mounted in front of the stained glass window came from the NYC Mission Society’s (the organization that oversaw the building of DeWitt) upstate campground, according to David Dunlap’s guidebook, “From Abyssinian to Zion.” The side elevation along Columbia Street also has a cross delineated in contrasting brick.

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