Imagine a mosaic 27 feet high and 20 feet wide. More than 90 years ago, an exterior mosaic of this size was proposed for the main entrance of Broadway Temple in northern Manhattan. The installation, in the likeness of this watercolor design, would feature more than half a million pieces of glass and take up over 500 square feet of space.
In the mid-1920s, plans were underway to demolish Broadway Temple’s predecessor in order to make way for construction of the George Washington Bridge. The replacement church, in its new location on Broadway and 173rd Street, was originally intended to include 40 stories with community features such as a swimming pool, bowling alley, playgrounds, apartments, and a cafeteria. Tiffany Studios was selected to design its centerpiece: a huge glass mosaic – always illuminated – that featured Christ, draped in white and standing atop a rainbow, framed within decorative borders. His outstretched arms would have beckoned parishioners inside had the installation come to fruition.
Despite assistance from well-known donors such as John D. Rockefeller, many of the original plans for the church were thwarted by the Great Depression. Prior to the 1929 stock market crash, two 12-story apartment buildings had been built as well as a gym and bowling alley, but little else. By 1952, the church was finally completed, but it was only a small fraction of the magnitude originally intended.
This watercolor serves as a reminder of dream that was never truly realized.
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