This building is the third church built at this site, and dates to 1841. The congregation is the oldest Methodist congregation in the United States and dates to 1766.
Over the last few years of photographing the city, I’ve come to reassess my understanding of how much of “old New York” remains. I cannot really quantify it, but there is definitely a lot less of it around than I had thought, and in some ways less than other US cities. Most of what qualifies as architecturally old in New York probably dates to the early 20th Century, with maybe a reasonable sprinkling of late 19th Century buildings mixed in. There really does not seem to be much from before 1880 or so.
Further, New York seems to have lost a lot of detail on what remains of even moderately old mid-20th Century buildings. Again, I cannot quantify this, but it seems to me that you are much more likely to see scenes like this in San Francisco or Los Angeles than you are in New York. This really struck me during some recent photographic forays downtown. Manhattan was built as a city from the bottom up. The southern tip of the island was the first part of the city to be built up. It’s hard to imagine it now, but at various points in history, everything north of Wall Street, then Canal Street, then 14th Street, and so on constituted largely undeveloped country land. So the potential for the oldest building in Manhattan largely lives very low downtown, but there is very little of it left. Outside of the Stone Street historic district, which itself only dates to rebuilding done after the Great Fire of 1835, there is not much downtown that is truly old. Interestingly, it appears to me that a large portion of what does remain are religious structures, such as this building. I can only speculate as to why, but I’m glad that some few pieces at least remain.
Finally, every now and then I see a movie or some photos showing New York when I was younger, usually the 1970-80s period. and I see numerous scenes and details I would love to capture, but which are now gone. Not only was I not an active photographer then, but even if I had been, I’m not sure some of them would have caught my eye. I miss them now but undoubtedly considered them mundane and not worth a second glance back then. Every now and then I remember this when I’m out looking for subjects to shoot. It sometimes helps to look at our surroundings with any mindset from 20-30, or even as little as 10 years ahead. What will disappear? What seems pedestrian today but will have a lost charm in upcoming decades? You certainly cannot tell with any certainty, but trying to think that way can help find some beauty in the mundane that you might otherwise miss.