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NYC's second-oldest religious building is close to becoming a landmark

The Old Saint James Episcopal Church in Elmhurst could soon be NYC’s newest landmark

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The second oldest religious building in New York City is just one step away from being landmarked. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission decided earlier today that they would vote on designating the Old Saint James Episcopal Church in Elmhurst, Queens, in September.

Built between 1735-36, this 282-year-old building is also the oldest surviving Anglican building in NYC. At the public hearing for the designation on Tuesday, a representative for the The Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, which now manages the church site, spoke in favor of designating the building.

He did however express hesitation over the increased costs such a status would bring. In his testimony, he pointed to the recently published New York Times piece which highlighted how religious institutions can sometimes suffer under the weight of the landmark status.

To defray those future costs, the diocese is proposing to build a structure behind the existing church building and to create gardens open to the public. They’ve hired CWB Architects to design the new building and the gardens. In addition, the architecture firm will also work to restore the church building, which in recent years has been used as a community center. Plans for these additions to the sites adjacent to the church have yet to be unveiled, and won’t be part of the current landmarking application.

The church last underwent a renovation in 2004, thanks in large part due to an effort spearheaded by the New York Landmarks Conservancy. They restored the single-story wood-frame building back to its Carpenter Gothic style, which it was modified with in the 1880s.

The LPC had previously rejected an application to landmark this building on account that it had lost its original historic fabric, but the Landmarks Conservancy asked the LPC to reconsider, and so they did. In just a month from now, this unassuming structure on a bustling Queens street could be NYC’s newest landmark.