3b: At the Cathedral of St. John the Divine: The Ithiel Town Building

Ithiel Towne Building Saint John the Divine Leake Watts Orphanage

On your visit to the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, be sure to check out the oldest building in Morningside Heights: Ithiel Town Building.

Named for its designer, Ithiel Town, the Town Building is the oldest existing structure in the neighborhood of Morningside Heights. Town was the architect of Federal Hall and St. Marks Church in-the-Bowery, both still standing in southern Manhattan. The Town Building predates the Cathedral—it began as the Leake & Watts Orphanage, which opened in 1847, when the area was largely rural and agricultural, separated from the urban crush. The Orphanage moved to Yonkers when the Cathedral purchased the land in 1887.

The Town Building is a monumental Greek Revival temple, with two wings flanking its neoclassical facade of Ionic columns and triangular pediment over a raised portico. The columns are molded stucco over brick, with carved wooden capitals. The building’s east wing was removed in 1950 to create more open space on the Close. The remaining structure received much-needed repairs during a major restoration project, which ran from 2006 to through 2012.

The Town Building is the home of the Cathedral’s Textile Conservation Lab, as well as Cathedral Community Cares (CCC), the Cathedral’s social service and neighborhood outreach arm. In addition, it contains choir rehearsal rooms, a sacristy, and a parking lot coop that serves as home base for the Cathedral’s three resident peacocks, Phil, Jim, and Harry.

The Ithiel Town Building at Cathedral of St. John the Divine

1047 Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street
New York, NY 10025

Hours: The Cathedral is open 7:30 am – 6 pm daily.

The Visitor Center and Cathedral Shop are open 9 am – 5 pm daily.

The Cathedral’s gardens and grounds are open during daylight hours.
(212) 316-7540