The Interchurch Center is a 19-story granite-faced building (opened in 1960) at 475 Riverside Drive and West 10th Street in Manhattan. The building is home to many Christian organizations, such as the National Council of Churches USA and Church World Service.
The building is so box-like that it was dubbed “God Box” in the 1960s—a nickname that is still applied. Other building nicknames include “Protestant Kremlin” and “American Vatican.”
Wikipedia: Interchurch Center
The Interchurch Center is a 19-story granite-clad office building located at 475 Riverside Drive and West 120th Street in New York City. Besides renting to many secular non-profits, it is the headquarters for the National Council of Churches USA and its sister humanitarian organization Church World Service, and also houses a wide variety of church agencies and ecumenical and interfaith organizations as well as many secular organizations.
Its concentration of religious organizations has led some to nickname the building the God Box. The current tenants include agencies of the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Reformed Church in America and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Samuel G. Freedman describes the building as the closest thing to a Vatican for America’s mainline Protestant denominations. The mainline churches include the Episcopal, Lutheran Presbyterian, Methodist and United Church of Christ (Congregationalists) denominations.
The Center benefits from a strong religious and educational environment. One of its tenants is the New York Theological Seminary. The building is located across from The Riverside Church, Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University and is a short walk to Jewish Theological Seminary, Manhattan School of Music, and the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine, all in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It is convenient to public rail transportation via subway line #1 at 116th Street, the M60 bus line from LaGuardia Airport, and north-south bus routes M5 on Riverside Drive and M4 and M104 on Broadway.
The Center was built in 1958 with gifts by John D. Rockefeller and other donors, together with a consortium of religious denominations, with the objective of encouraging cooperative work among such diverse religious groups as the Orthodox, African-American, and mainstream Protestant denominations and to foster the growth of ecumenical bodies such as the National Council of Churches USA.
In the presence of a crowd of more than 30,000 gathered at the building site, the Center’s cornerstone was laid by then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, and Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Arthur S. Flemming, were active in the work of the National Council of Churches.
The simplicity of the building’s architecture has caused some critics to disparage its design. Columbia University architecture historian Andrew Dolkart calls the Center “an undistinguished, bulky, limestone building.” Other critics have called it “clumsily articulated,” and “a squat cube.”
The Interchurch Center
Mission Statement/History The Founding Years
In the early twentieth century witnessed a worldwide fervor for Christian unity. In the mid-twentieth century this passion was at fever-pitch in the city of New York. Hopes were high to build a center in which Protestant and Orthodox churches in America could engage in dialogue and cooperation. Inspiring the endeavor was the idea that Christians ought to do all they can together unless conscience requires them doing it separately.
On May 29, 1960, the completed edifice was dedicated in a moving ceremony that marked an unprecedented advance in the movement for greater unity among the churches in the United States. Known as ‘Dedication Sunday’, the day began with worship and thanksgiving in Riverside Church.
World Student Christian Federation
Add to this schedule two days spent visiting the Inter-church Centre — known to theological students in New York as “the God box” — and all that is missing is my visit to Greenwich Village, Harlem, and the Hippie Quarter.
The Interchurch Center:
Reminiscences of an incorrigible promoter
By Francis Stuart Harmon
New York, NY: Harmon
The timely initiative of The Interchurch Center, its officers and trustees, in pressing for more spiritual emphasis in Bicentennial planning and programming has borne fruit. By such meaningful action, the Center has established itself as far more than the operator of a 19-story headquarters building variously labelled “The God Box,” “The American Vatican” and “The Inter-faith Center” by wise-cracking seminarians, taxi drivers and other voluble “commentators.”
4 May 1992, Newsday (Long island, NY), “A Church Exodus From the `God Box’; City losing status as religious hub” by David Henry, pg. 31:
Yet the greatest accomplishments of the God Box, as the center is known, may not be the issues that most concern the Methodist staff’s contributors.
New York (NY) Times
WEDDINGS/VOWS; Felicia Thomas, Walter Parrish
By Lois Smith Brady
Published: December 5, 1993
Mr. Parrish, 34, who cooks and still rides a motorcycle, almost always carries a Bible the size of a Dove Bar. He is an executive on the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board of American Baptist Churches and works at the Interchurch Center, a modern building on Riverside Drive that has offices for many denominations and is known as God’s Box.
Grant us courage:
Travels along the mainline of American Protestantism
By Randall Herbert Balmer
New York, NY: Oxford University Press
It is known almost universally as “The God Box” or the “Protestant Kremlin,” although denominational executives still solemnly refer to it by its given name or by “475 Riverside,” the building’s address.
New York (NY) Times
By DANIEL B. SCHNEIDER
Published: July 6, 1997
The ‘God Box’
Q. What is the story of the imposing 19-story building on Riverside Drive between 119th and 120th Streets, named the Interchurch Center but popularly called the ‘’God box’’?
A. Built to provide offices for Protestant and Orthodox religious organizations and nonprofit agencies, the Interchurch Center was intended to be a national symbol of Christian unity when it was dedicated in 1960.
Housed in a more graceful building, the Interchurch Center would probably have a different nickname, but the ‘’God box’’ seems to fit these quarters. Occupying the full block between Riverside Drive and Claremont Avenue, the building is a squat cube, sheathed in grayish-white Alabama limestone and pierced by row upon row of 1,289 identical 4-foot-by-6-foot windows. Described as ‘’Stalinist’’ by one critic and ‘’clumsily articulated’’ by another, the center looks like the box that a more beautiful building might arrive in.
The center was never particularly popular with conservative and evangelical churches, and several denominations moved out in the 1980’s. Today, one third of the office space is rented by Columbia University or by nonprofit or social service agencies, including Alcoholics Anonymous and the American Guild of Organists.
New York (NY) Daily News
GOD SQUAD BOSSES TAKE HER ON FAITH
BY CHARLES W. BELL
Saturday, May 27th 2000, 2:12AM
THE INTERCHURCH Center, a Morningside Heights landmark that John D. Rockefeller Jr. made possible, celebrated its 40th birthday yesterday.
Sue Dennis did her bit to keep things running smoothly.
“I was wrangling the reverends,” she says.
Dennis is executive director of the 19-story building, which is called the God Box because most of its 60 tenants are church agencies.
New York City • Buildings/Housing/Parks • (0) Comments • Sunday, June 27, 2010 • Permalink