Manhattan history detectives: what church is (was?) this?
November 23, 2022 9:34 AM   Subscribe

In the 1903 film "Excavating for a New York foundation", , you can see a church in the background...what church is that?

The film's catalog record says that it was "Filmed on November 6, 1903 on Broadway and 26th Street in New York, N.Y. "

The church is visible in the video thumbnail. When the video plays, the church comes into view after about 01:05. You can also see the film on YouTube, at; in that version, the church shows up after about 01:10.

I did a little uninformed google maps poking around, but got in over my head far too soon--I hoped more skilled and informed minds might like a crack at it.

posted by theatro to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm pretty sure it is the Marble Collegiate Church on Fifth Avenue and West 29th Street. It seems to have the same distinctive square tower with a diamond-shaped clock face and smaller turret above.
posted by sparkling at 10:02 AM on November 23, 2022

Best answer: If I'm right, it doesn't seem like the video was filmed at Broadway and 26th — it feels like we're too close to the church and at the wrong angle. The YouTube description suggests the video is of the Herald Square Macy's construction, but that also seems too far away to be correct.
posted by sparkling at 10:09 AM on November 23, 2022

Best answer: I thought Marble Collegiate too.
posted by Mchelly at 10:40 AM on November 23, 2022

Best answer: I think I've figured it out. The video is taken from 29th St, looking toward 5th Avenue at the back of the church. The building to the left with the distinctive striped corners is the Bancroft Building. You won't see it on present-day Google Street View because it's been demolished, but if you go back to 2011 it's still there.

I think the workers in the video are constructing 2 W 29th Street, the tall stone building on the south side of the street across from the former Bancroft Building.

In the first part of the video, you can faintly see a sign saying Cafeteria at 0:27 and a large ad for Cremo Cigars at 1:05. In the 1940s tax photo database the buildings on the SW corner of Fifth and 29th (both still visible - barely - in the 2011 Street View) are a cigar store and a cafeteria next door. Those buildings facing Fifth must be the buildings we're looking at from behind in the video, and 2 W 29th now occupies the lot where the construction is taking place.

OK, that's all I have - this was much more fun than work!
posted by sparkling at 11:03 AM on November 23, 2022 [15 favorites]

Response by poster: That was so fast, and spectacular, and also so very granular!! I feel like the lead character on a Hollywood Forensics show, able to produce amazing results from the other characters by saying "...Enhance."

Thank you all very much!

And I'm glad it was fun--I hoped it might be, for those with the chops.
posted by theatro at 11:39 AM on November 23, 2022 [2 favorites]

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