The Restoration of Grace Church

Grace Church NYC, located at Broadway and East 10th St. in Manhattan, is a National Historic Landmark and is one of the most famous structures in the New York City.  The historic Episcopal church was initially organized in 1808, and the current church structure was consecrated in 1846.

After more than 160 years, the beautiful structure was in need of major repairs.  Over the past several years the current Rector of Grace Church, The Rev. Donald Waring, has been leading a major restoration of the church in order to make the required structural and architectural repairs.

Rev. Waring has been keeping his church community and the public updated on the progress of the restoration by posting updates and even videos on his church’s website.  Here is a video of Rev. Waring explaining the installation of massive pieces of limestone “tracery” for the restoration of the beautiful “Te Deum” window, which rises above the church alter.  Other videos can be seen here.

The extent of the restoration is truly impressive.  Grace Church’s stained glass windows were installed in the 1870’s and 1880’s, and many, such as the “Te Deum Window,” are highly intricate and irreplaceable works of art.  Some of them consist of thousands of individual pieces of glass held together by lead strips known as “tracery.”  Nine of these windows have been removed so that the stained glass can be cleaned and restored, and so that the marble tracery can be replaced with limestone, which will last longer than marble.

As part of the restoration initiative, Grace is also installing a new pipe organ.  The pipe organ is being constructed by Taylor and Boody Organbuilders of Staunton, Virginia.  Rev. Waring has said that the new organ will be not only “a majestic musical instrument, but also a mechanical marvel and a work of art.”  Rev. Waring says that Taylor and Boody “use the time honored methods of the craft that have allowed the life spans of organs in Europe to be measured in centuries, not decades.”

This view towards investing for the long-term is expensive, but Rev. Waring and the Grace Church leadership have been sucessful at developing a plan to restore the important and historic church, mobilizing the church community behind the plan, and then (most imporantly) successfully executing on the plan.  This is a great case-study for other historic churches facing similar structural issues.