New York Melkite Church a Landmark

The five story tall and very thin front of the former Church of Saint George in New York City

American Melkite

“Mother Parish Church”

Declared a Landmark

July 2009

The edited Press Release of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission follows below. For the complete report of the commission with details on the structure, the community of St. George and the New York Syrian-Lebanese community – click HERE.

The five-story, neo-Gothic style former church, featuring a vibrant white terra cotta façade, is located at 103 Washington St. between Carlisle and Rector streets, and housed the nation’s first Melkite Greek Catholic parish from 1925 until 1966. It was located in a neighborhood known in the early 20th century as “the Syrian Quarter,” because it attracted thousands of immigrants from the former Ottoman province of Syria, which include present-day Syria and Lebanon.

“This intact, vibrant former church is the City’s most vivid reminder of the time when Washington Street was the Main Street of Syrian America,” said Commission Chairman Robert B. Tierney. “Its history is as fascinating as its architecture is extraordinary.”

The building that housed St. George’s was originally constructed around 1812, and was three stories in height, with a peaked roof. It was used as a boarding house in the 1850s, and was raised to five stories in 1869. In 1929, four years after the Melkite Catholic parish moved into the building, the church hired Harvey F. Cassab, a Lebanese-American draftsman, to design a new façade, which was completed in 1930. Melkite Catholics recognize the primacy of the Pope, but worship using the Byzantine Rite and follow other Eastern customs.

The chief highlight of the white façade is a polychromatic terra cotta depiction of an armor-clad St. George on a white horse slaying a green dragon. The first three stories are separated into three bays by narrow buttresses, and the ground floor features a recessed main entrance, which is decorated with foliate ornament and grapes. The façade is crowned by an angular parapet and a central belfry, and is framed by pilasters with pinnacles.