In 1925, the Church of the Heavenly Rest acquired its present location at 90th and Fifth Avenue from Mrs. Andrew Carnegie, who lived across the street in what is now the Smithsonian National Design Museum, also known as the Cooper-Hewitt. Bertram Goodhue, one of the most distinguished church architects of the era, was selected to design the new building. Although Goodhue died in 1924, the successor firm, Mayers, Murray and Phillip, continued his original plan with Hardie Phillip as the design principal. Construction commenced on All Saints’ Day 1926. The new building was dedicated two and a half years later, on Easter Sunday 1929.
The result was a grand gothic church that combined popular Art Deco details of the time in its architecture and sculpture. The church presents a strong formidable façade within the context of its quiet, residential streetscape. Located in Carnegie Hill on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 90th Street, directly across from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis reservoir and the Engineer’s Gate leading into Central Park, Heavenly Rest is a memorable landmark for many visitors.
The design is based on Gothic precedents dating to the 13th and 14th centuries in Northern Europe. By contrast, the sculpture and architectural details derive from Art Deco sources that flourished during the modernist period when the Church was conceived and erected. The cantilevered roof is supported by steel beams, which allows for an exceptionally wide interior space with a clear view of the altar from every pew. The core gesture of the architecture is simple, austere masses in the lower regions rising to joyous articulation up high. In the Nave, broad, undecorated walls of buff-colored sandstone contrast to the carved and filigreed reredos and the sparkling hues of the stained glass windows. Guastavino acoustic blocks line out the stonework, and their tiles cover the vaulted ceiling.