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Manhattan's landmark Marble Collegiate Church modernized

Manhattan's landmark Marble Collegiate Church modernized

Helpern Architects, Structure Tone led the Building Team in a multi-phase project. 

By Julie Higginbotham, Senior Editor | October 23, 2013
Decorative plaster and painted ceilings once again display their original beauty at this Marble Collegiate Church
Decorative plaster and painted ceilings once again display their original beauty at this Marble Collegiate Church

Marble Collegiate Church, built in 1854 on a dirt road, is now surrounded by a densely populated Manhattan neighborhood. Gaining national recognition during the 52-year tenure of Norman Vincent Peale, the Romanesque Revival landmark still serves more than 2,200 congregants, plus a vast broadcast audience via TV, radio, Internet streaming, and podcasts.

In 1999, church leaders, under the guidance of the late Senior Minister Arthur Caliandro, began discussing a long-range building plan. Priorities included consolidating worship spaces, which had become dispersed between the sanctuary and adjacent “Middle Building”; repairing the roof and the sanctuary ceiling; adding an underground chapel; building a permanent contemplative labyrinth to replace a temporary canvas version; making all facilities accessible; and gaining city approval for public assemblies in the refurbished sanctuary and community room. (Check out more BD+C coverage of religious facilities construction.)

Helpern Architects and Structure Tone (CM) led the Building Team in a multi-phase project, completed between 2011 and 2013. Due to the extensiveness of the roof and ceiling repairs, the team installed a motorized interior scaffold that could be expanded during the week and retracted for weekend worship.

The roof structure of the Marble Collegiate Church was stabilized with steel trusses sistered alongside the timber originals, which now only need to support the ceiling. City-approved synthetic slate replaced deteriorated asphalt roofing, and the ceiling’s plaster and paintings were restored.

An underground level that formerly housed a multipurpose room was re-excavated and reorganized, making space for a stepped, 70-seat chapel, an enlarged, 300-sf columbarium, and a 1,600-sf multi-purpose space, with a 30-foot-diameter labyrinth embedded in the terrazzo floor. A much-needed elevator and lift, and updated HVAC, electrical, IT, and life safety infrastructure, were important aspects of the project. Modern broadcasting equipment was added to support ongoing outreach.

Dr. Peale was famous for his belief in the Power of Positive Thinking. The congregation’s vision—and the conscientious, creative work of the Building Team—have produced a restoration that exemplifies the bold optimism of “America’s hometown church.”


New York, N.Y.

Building Team
Submitting firms: Helpern Architects (architect) and Structure Tone (CM)
Owner: Collegiate Church Corporation
Owner’s representative: Seamus Henchy & Associates 
SE: Robert Silman Associates 
MEP/FP engineer: URS Corporation
Geotechnical consultant: Langan Engineering & Environmental Services
Acoustical consultant: Shen Milsom & Wilke
General Information
Size: 26,070 sf (expanded size)
Construction cost: Confidential, at owner’s request
Construction time: January 2011 to January 2013
Delivery method: CM at risk


To keep the sanctuary operational during extensive roof and ceiling repairs, the Building Team designed a motorized scaffold system. The structure rolled through the sanctuary during the week and was retracted on weekends for worship. Stained glass windows were protected by plywood screens, covered with life-sized images of the windows printed on stretched canvas.






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