The Cathedral of St. John the Divione. Photo by Kripaks.

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, among the most beautiful buildings in the city, has finally been declared a landmark — though some would argue that the designation came several years too late.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously on Tuesday to give the cathedral landmark status, which will protect the campus from further development. The cathedral’s development began with a design contest in 1888. The first building was dedicated in 1911, but construction was halted during World War I and the structure remains unfinished, Curbed notes. The cathedral campus stretches from 110th to 113th Street and Amsterdam Avenue to Morningside Drive.

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“It’s meaningful and important to designate the cathedral as a building that is unfinished,” Commissioner Shamir-Brown said. “We’re recognizing not only what it was but what it will become. That says something about the potential open-endedness of preservation.”

The LPC had first voted to make the cathedral a landmark in 2002, but the City Council did not approve the vote, because they had hoped to make the whole campus a landmark, according to Curbed. That never happened, and in the meantime, developers built two developments on the site. The most recent development, two rental buildings known as the Enclave at the Cathedral, sparked opposition from the community. Those buildings are not covered by this landmarks designation. The church allowed the developments in order to raise money to keep its programs going.

The Enclave at the Cathedral on the left.

The City Council will still need to vote to certify the landmark.

HISTORY, NEWS | 14 comments | permalink
    1. joan says:

      The Enclave does nothing but take away from the beauty of the cathedral.

    2. Ground Control says:

      Sadly it did not happen until after the Cathedral made a series of horrendous mistakes that have destroyed the campus of the cathedral. Enormous mismanagement which has blocked the north view of its magnificent windows with a building which is in the top ten of ugliest buildings in New York. Its a blight on the area-and an embarrassment on New York that anyone could treat this magnificent cathedral in this way. Perhaps the new designation of Morningside Heights will make it difficult to ever do this again. There’s some solace in that.

      • A landmark designation is no guarantee that development would not occur. The trustees realized that completing the Cathedral is an unrealistic goal and did what was needed for preservation of the existing campus. The compromises made are providing affordable housing on the site that weren’t mandated by zoning. The designers could have created a building similar to Riverside Church where the tower is actually an office building. It could also have been some Frank Gehry deeconstructivist style building. The Cathedral is unharmed except for the view. Tourists and admirers can now walk close to the north side with a view unhindered by sheds. One must remember the purpose of architecture is not all about aesthetics. Would adding faux Gothic appointments to the new building make it any more authentic or appealing? The new building could easily be torn down in a hundred years or more after it has outlived its useful life. In some twist of fate, the new building itself might be landmarked if the designer becomes an architect of celebrity status or a future president sleeps there.

    3. west side walking says:

      The Cathedral itself did not want landmark status. Why? It wanted to pursue more and bigger real estate development interests.

    4. rchjms says:

      “The church allowed the developments in order to raise money to keep its programs going.” Ok, I get that. And the Pennsylvania Railroad, sold the air rights which allowed the demolition of Penn Station. We get the architecture we deserve. SMH.

    5. WombatNYC says:

      The Enclave apartments are the smallest spaces I have ever viewed. The units are designed to look appealing with fancy new kitchens and floors and windows but these spaces can only fit small couches , mini fridges and small tables . The staging is wonderful . The reality is not

    6. grandmasterbeta says:

      The Enclave looks like a radiator.

    7. Wendy says:

      Shame on the UGLY new building at North side of that Cathedral….That Cathedral is NOT one of the most beautiful buildings. What happened to the Rose garden ? What happened to the Shelter for guys ? What happened to that UGLY fountain, [many mini-statues on it] , ? PIty that folk in St. Luke’s…..Hospital, while — recent construction. What happened to rough sleepers in front of said Cathedral….? p.s. NO to gay marriage; to ordaining ‘gay’ clergy….

    8. Alta says:

      The photo of the Enclave is also deceptive, since that is an angle no person would ever see. All you can really see from the street is the bland side and back of the building, ruining the view of the cathedral. That whole front facade is very hard to view because of the height and position of the hospital.

    9. Susan goldstein says:

      Those new buildings are a disgrace.

    10. shirley says:

      You can never have enough money. New York City real estate developers just can’t get enough.

    11. ksf says:

      The tragedy is that the CITY did not move sooner–and that mega money in NYC did not go to the Cathedral in order to preserve its prior beautiful and appropriate setting within ample grounds….v. the present result: a great building squeezed by determinedly ugly and pricey residential towers.