St. Thomas the Apostle Roman Catholic Church

262 West 118th Street (at St. Nicholas Avenue)

This 800-seat neo-Gothic structure was designed by Thomas Henry Poole and opened in 1907. Poole is also responsible for the the 1891 Holy Name of Jesus Church (96th/Amsterdam), the 1894 Lady of Good Counsel Church (232 E. 90th) and the eclectic 1905 Harlem Presbyterian Church (122nd St/Mount Morris Park West). Although not clearly visible in these photos due to the protective netting, the facade is the most acclaimed feature of the church with a Venetian Gothic projecting front porch and a spiked terra cotta headdress. The paired front staircases lead underneath a green-tile vaulted ceiling to an unusually long sanctuary which was also richly ornamented.

The parish was established in 1889 by Rev. John J. Keogan just as this area of West Central Harlem was being developed and when the church opened the parishoners were predominantly Irish. As the demographics and culture of the area changed through the years, the building and parish slowly declined. By 2002, the church only had around 250 parishoners each Sunday and with the aging building needed an estimated $1 million in repairs. (reference)

The archdiocese closed the church in 2003 with plans to demolish the building and construct apartments for seniors. A 2004 lawsuit by former parishoners was dismissed the following year and calls for landmark protection fell on deaf ears. The German stained glass windows were slated for removal and transfer to a new church being built in Dutchess County. When I visited in the Spring of 2008, a demolition permit had not yet been issued, although the church's fate seems inescapable. (reference)

View from the Northeast
4/4/2008 01:02 PM
View from the Northeast
View from the East
4/4/2008 12:15 PM
View from the East
Facade
4/4/2008 12:16 PM
Facade
Rectory
4/4/2008 12:17 PM
Rectory
View from the West
4/4/2008 12:17 PM
View from the West
View from the West
4/4/2008 12:17 PM
View from the West
Street level
4/4/2008 12:18 PM
Street level
Front porch staircase
4/4/2008 12:18 PM
Front porch staircase
Front porch staircase
4/4/2008 12:19 PM
Front porch staircase
Front porch staircase
4/4/2008 12:19 PM
Front porch staircase
Front porch staircase
4/4/2008 01:00 PM
Front porch staircase
Front porch staircase
4/4/2008 01:00 PM
Front porch staircase
Facade
4/4/2008 01:01 PM
Facade
Rear view
4/4/2008 12:13 PM
Rear view
Rear view
4/4/2008 12:13 PM
Rear view
Rear view
4/4/2008 12:13 PM
Rear view
Still there
12/3/2008 02:09 PM
Still there

The church's school (just to the East of the church) seems to be doing quite well.

School of St. Thomas the Apostle
4/4/2008 12:14 PM
School of St. Thomas the Apostle
School of St. Thomas the Apostle
4/4/2008 12:15 PM
School of St. Thomas the Apostle
School of St. Thomas the Apostle
4/4/2008 12:15 PM
School of St. Thomas the Apostle
School of St. Thomas the Apostle
4/4/2008 01:03 PM
School of St. Thomas the Apostle

Harlem Hospital has an outpatient center just to the west of the church that includes a methodone treatment facility.

Harlem Hospital building
4/4/2008 12:17 PM
Harlem Hospital building

There is a community garden to the southeast of the church.

Community garden
4/4/2008 01:04 PM
Community garden
Community garden
4/4/2008 01:04 PM
Community garden
Mr. Crack van
4/4/2008 01:05 PM
Mr. Crack van