Kirkland Chapel Renovation


Questions about the Kirkland Chapel renovation? Ask away!

Why now? Is there an urgent need to do this renovation now?

Any facility, no matter how well maintained, will need repair after 100 years in operation. In Kirkland Chapel, we have made incremental repairs over the years, but there is a good deal of maintenance we have deferred. Meanwhile, we are diligently working to make required improvements in energy efficiency throughout the Curry Church House and in the Sanctuary to ensure that we meet the city’s new environmental codes. It makes good economic sense to create a plan that addresses all of our maintenance requirements at one time.

There are other benefits to doing this project now. The church is on solid financial footing, and our ministries are thriving. We are healthy enough to take this on. And the timing is perfect: If all goes according to plan, these improvements (with the possible exception of the new pipe organ) will be complete in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Kirkland Chapel in 2025.

How much will this project cost?

The Chapel Renovation Task Force is working with the architect and the architect’s professional estimating team on a detailed budget—identifying cost savings, planning for contingencies and thinking through every detail. The current estimate for the renovation plan (including the new pipe organ) is approximately $14.2 million. We will share more detailed estimates as our work proceeds.

What is the timeline for this project?

We plan to close the Chapel on Jan. 1, 2024, so that renovations can begin. Barring unforeseen delays, we will complete the project by early 2025. We will plan a 100th anniversary celebration for Kirkland Chapel sometime that year. It is possible that the new organ will not be ready by the time the Chapel reopens. If that is the case, we will make use of an electronic organ on a temporary basis, using it and the piano during worship and concerts until the new pipe organ is completed.

How will this renovation position the Chapel to be part of our new “hybrid church” model?

The quick answer is “Yes!” The Chapel will be equipped with low-light remote video cameras that can also be controlled from our basement livestream control room.  When all is complete, we will be able to livestream and record worship services and arts and education events in the Chapel. The planned improvements in lighting and acoustics will also enhance the quality of our livestream and recording. Kirkland Chapel will become even more important to our hybrid church ministries than it is today.

What will become of the old pews?

We are working on a plan to make the old pews available to congregation members! Stay tuned. This would be an opportunity for you to have a bit of Fifth Avenue history as a bench in your home.

What will happen to the memorial plaques on the walls and on the pews honoring past donors?

The memorial plaques are an important part of our history. We will preserve them. We are developing a plan to display these plaques in a creative way, and we will advise the congregation when the plan has come together.

What will become of the pulpit?

We are removing the raised pulpit on the right side of the nave to make room for the organ console. We plan to reuse the wood from the pulpit to build a new baptismal font for the Sanctuary. The existing Sanctuary font is made of the same stone as the Chapel walls and was intended, in fact, to be used in the Chapel. Once we have built a new font for the Sanctuary, we will return the stone font to the Chapel where it belongs.

Will the new seating system reduce the seating capacity in the Chapel?

Interestingly, even allowing for exit space along the side aisles, the new seating will not reduce the seating capacity at all on the main floor. The seating in the rear balcony will remain unchanged. The only reduction in seating might be in the side balcony, depending on the space required for the new organ.

Will we re-install the stained glass windows that once adorned the west wall?

The windows in the west wall were removed a number of years ago to protect them during construction by our neighbor. The Chapel Renovation Task Force considered reinstalling these windows. Unfortunately, the work done by our neighbor does not provide sufficient space to accomplish this. However, there is good news: The lighting plan for the Chapel includes an upgrade to the backlighting of the stained glass windows in the chancel, which will provide high-quality illumination for these beautiful windows. 

Will these renovations affect the church’s landmark status?

Because the church is not designated as an official landmark, this renovation is not subject to municipal, state or federal guidelines for historic preservation. Nevertheless, our renovation plan honors the history and architectural integrity of the Chapel even as we modernize it to better serve our congregation.

Where will Chapel Church go while the renovations are taking place?

Chapel Church will relocate to Jones Auditorium on the third floor of the church house until the Chapel reopens. (But we’ll still call it “Chapel” Church!)

Why are we investing in a new pipe organ instead of a less-expensive digital organ?

Our decision to install a new pipe organ was based on a comprehensive evaluation of factors. First, we want the worship experience and performance capabilities of Kirkland Chapel to achieve the same high standards we set for the Sanctuary. Over the past millennium, the pipe organ has remained the instrument of choice in Christian worship. While various other musical genres have come and gone, the organ remains and shows no signs of fading away. Modern organ builders are struggling to keep up with the demand for new instruments.

Second, we believe that the appreciation for sacred music, including pipe organ music, grows through exposure and education. By providing a superior instrument like a pipe organ, we foster an environment that promotes artistic growth and appreciation within our community. Finally, the exceptional acoustics of Kirkland Chapel deserve a superior instrument, and we believe this investment will benefit the church in return. By investing in a proper instrument that resonates with both musicians and audiences alike, we have the opportunity to attract and minister to an even broader portion of New York’s sacred music lovers.

Will there be choir concerts while the Chapel is closed?

Yes! The concerts will be performed in the Sanctuary as the Chapel renovations proceed.

What will be the financial impact of closing the Chapel for a full year, particularly on rentals for weddings and funerals?

We are not accepting reservations for special events (like weddings) in the Chapel for 2024. Instead, we are recommending that people consider the Sanctuary for weddings, and thus far we believe the total effect on the church’s finances will be negligible.