The Church of Notre Dame began in 1910 - not first as a church, but as a chapel; not first as a parish, but as a mission. It is hard to realize, looking at the busy, cosmopolitan area of Morningside Heights today, that not so many years ago, even within the memories of some still living, this area was undeveloped with open land and a sparse population. That, however, was the case as Notre Dame began life as a mission of the Church of St. Vincent de Paul (on West 24th Street). A French community of priests, the Fathers of Mercy, was entrusted with the care of this mission in the early years of this century as there were many French immigrants in this community. In time the French community was integrated with other ethnic groups that found Notre Dame to be their home: Irish, German, Italian, African-American, Hispanic and Filipino. Notre Dame today [...]
In October 2012 Timothy Cardinal Dolan announced the closing of the French National Church, St. Vincent de Paul, on January 6th 2013, after the celebration of the last Mass on the Feast of the Epiphany. It was celebrated to an overflowing crowd by Msgr. John Paddack, appointed transitional Pastor of St. Vincent de Paul. The Francophone community has been invited to open a new chapter in their 170 year history of religious tolerance and social justice by making their new home at the Church of Notre Dame. Notre Dame is an integral part of that long history of St. Vincent de Paul. In 1910, it was built as a Mission Church of St. Vincent de Paul and was staffed by the same French Fathers of Mercy. The present diverse congregation of Notre Dame and Columbia University Catholic Campus Ministry is proud to welcome their brothers and sisters in faith and history to Morningside Heights. [...]
The Maison Française was established by Columbia president Nicholas Murray Butler in 1913 as a “center for the study of French civilization and French literature” — the first French cultural institute on an American campus. That inaugural year, Butler, a man of grand gesture and grander influence, brought the French philosopher Henri Bergson to Morningside Heights as a visiting professor. More recently, the Maison has hosted Shoah filmmaker Claude Lanzmann, writer and professor emerita Maryse Condé, economist Thomas Piketty, and philosopher Jacques Rancière. Now, in 2013, the Maison Française is toasting its centenary with events throughout the year, starting with an exhibit in Buell Hall, on view through October 30. Curated by Maison Française director Shanny Peer, and jointly organized by the Maison Française and the Rare Book and Manuscript Division of Columbia Libraries, the exhibit includes documents, program materials, audio recordings, and photographs of distinguished thinkers, artists, and vedettes de cinéma. Buell Hall, [...]
Living legend Philippe Petit, famous for his dangerously high tightrope walking, particularly between the Twin Tower in 1974, celebrated his book Why Know? How to Tie More Than 60 Ingenious, Useful, Beautiful, Lifesaving and Secure Knots! with a party at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in Morningside Heights. A lesser known fact is that Petit has held the title of artist in residence at the Church since 1980, when he took a trip across the 601-foot-long nave. Petit’s newest book explains the knots he uses while up in the air, with detailed descriptions of how to tie and untie them. And rightly so - Petit won’t even take the first step on a wire unless he has checked the knots two or three times.
The French architecture and architects in the neighborhood have included: Ernest Flagg, an American architect in the Beaux-Arts style, who designed St. Luke’s after having recently returned from study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He won the contest over three other architects because he was related by marriage to Cornelius Vanderbilt II, chair of the hospital’s executive committee Flagg’s design was symmetrical and beautiful like buildings of the French Renaissance. Some architects had drawings in the cathedral style argued that it was too unlike the cathedral. 507 W 111 Street was inspired by George Pelham’s Blennerhasse, with two story limestone base, entry portico, red brick upper facade highlighted with French-inspired Beaux-Arts white terra-cotta features. Many Morningside Heights buildings combine Beaux-Arts ornamentation with American colonial brickwork. The neighborhood's apartment buildings are designed in Italian Renaissance, French Renaissance, French Beaux-Arts, and Gothic, and American colonial styles. McGiffert Hall (122nd & Claremont) is a student residence designed [...]
From early on, the Morningside Heights neighborhood has benefited from its strong links to France. Architecture, art, important institutions, and the ever-persistent numbers of expat French living here, French influences can be found in all corners of Morningside Heights.