General News · August 25, 2021

Update: Repairing the Sanctuary in “Our Grand House of God”

A summer update as the Fifth Avenue Sanctuary ceiling undergoes needed construction.

An August update as the Fifth Avenue Sanctuary ceiling undergoes needed construction.

Fifth Avenue is on track for a September open as the Sanctuary attic repair project approaches its final phases. As always, the Property Committee is grateful for the prayers from the community as our architect, engineer and team of workers focus on making the building safe and ready for Homecoming Sunday on September, 12th.

“We are grateful to our architect and engineer whose expertise enabled us to cut through the red tape, file the necessary paperwork with the city Department of Buildings and expeditiously obtain the required permits,” says Director Facilities, Derek Maddalena. “Since then they have worked closely with the contractor, who has made this project a priority, to ensure the structural steel and wood supports are properly installed. We expect the work to be completed by early September, prior to Homecoming Sunday.”

Bob Henn chairs the Property Committee and affirms that the work has been focused on the community gathering in early September. “We have prioritized the steel and wood support work in the sanctuary attic so it would be safe to open on Homecoming Sunday. Thus, the installation of the movable doors and broadcast lighting will be completed later in September, with the scaffolding in the balcony remaining in place until this work is done.”

For more on this summer attic construction project of the historic Fifth Avenue Sanctuary, read below.
While working on other projects this winter, the church’s longtime architect observed some damage in the support system for the Sanctuary attic. Structural engineers were brought in to assess the situation and determined that repairs were necessary.

The project will require installing scaffolding, moving sprinkler pipes in the attic, and taking the Sanctuary’s fire protection system off-line at times. Additionally, structural steel will be needed to strengthen existing ceiling supports and may possibly need to be lifted into place by a crane. Carpenters will be building new supports from wood to replace the current ties that are original to the construction of the church. 

Bob Henn is a member of the Fifth Avenue Property Committee and chairs the Livestreaming Task Force. He says, “We did not expect to have to do this work, but it is important for the safety of our congregation and for the long-term preservation of our Sanctuary that we do this work now.”

In late April, the Board of Trustees approved a motion to allocate funding from the Hubbard Fund to repair the Sanctuary attic. The Hubbard Fund was created in 2018 for the purpose of funding annual capital expenditures as well as unexpected large repair projects.  Following that motion approval, contracts were secured so repair work could commence immediately. 

Property Chair Ted Peck says the church is committed to the full repair of the project as well as pursuing an aggressive schedule. “We are eager to resume in-person worship in the Sanctuary after a long season of being apart. Engineers have told us that if there are no challenges in the process, the Sanctuary will be available and usable for worship in early September. In late May, we will close access to the Sanctuary so that the engineers and carpenters can get to work.”

In 1935, Time magazine wrote about Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, stating that “this grand house of God is often called the Cathedral of Presbyterianism.” The historic Sanctuary is original to Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church which has been on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 55th Street since 1875.