New York Architecture Images-Greenwich Village

Church of St. Luke-in-the-Fields (Episc.)


Clement Clark Moore. builder: James N. Wells
restored 1981 Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer.


485 Hudson St. 




Federal Style









Built as a summer chapel for Trinity Church, this austere Federal Style building is the third oldest Church in New York (after St. Paul's Chapel and St. Mark's-in-the-Bowery Church). Before the island was widened by landfill, the church stood at the edge of the Hudson River surrounded by farms, streams and shaded country lanes. It was often accessed by boat in the days when the Village flourished as a country retreat for Manhattanites whose winter abodes were located further to the south. Its modest architectural expression reflects its function as a country chapel. Damaged by several fires, St. Luke-in-the-Fields was most recently reconstructed in 1981.

Built on land leased from Trinity Church, St. Luke's enclosed its garden and burial grounds with town houses edging the entire block bounded by Greenwich, Barrow, Hudson, and Christopher Streets. Seven Federal houses--their third-floor dormers converted to full floors in the latter half of the nineteenth century--stood on each side of the chapel.
Although a 1958 renovation allowed for the demolition of several of the row houses and the construction of a modern school, St. Luke's retains its insular, pastoral character. In 1981, the church was carefully restored after a serious fire.

Historical map of neighborhood.
Historical map of neighborhood.

On October 22, 1820, a small group of residents of the riverfront village of Greenwich gathered at the home of Catherine Ritter to organize an Episcopal church for their growing community. They named the church after St. Luke, the physician evangelist, in recognition of the village's role as a refuge from the yellow fever epidemics that plagued New York City during the summers.

One of the founding wardens was Clement Clarke Moore, a gentleman scholar of biblical Hebrew and Greek who also penned "Twas the night before Christmas." The first eucharist of The Church of Saint Luke in the Fields was celebrated in a prison watch house on the corner of Christopher and Hudson street on Christmas of that year.


Historical church exterior.
Historical church exterior.

In 1821, the cornerstone to the church was laid on a site on Hudson Street donated by Trinity Church. The new church was consecrated on Ascension Day, May 16, 1822. In 1845, St. Luke's became a leading proponent of Anglo-Catholic worship in the United States, offering daily services of the Divine Office as well as weekly Sunday eucharists. One of the first professions of monastic vows in the Anglican Communion since the Reformation occurred at St. Luke's in 1847.

In 1891, St. Luke's became a chapel of Trinity Church. In the following years, the block was expanded to serve the increasing number of neighborhood ministries, including extensive outreach to neighborhood children. In 1927, a new gymnasium was added to the block. In 1956, deteriorating houses surrounding the chapel were razed, and a school building, playground and garden were constructed.


Church fire damage.
Church fire damage.

In 1976, Trinity Parish decided to divest itself of all but one of its chapels, and St. Luke's once again became an independent parish of the Episcopal Church. In 1979, St. Luke's was among the first churches in the Anglican Communion to appoint a woman as an assistant priest. On March 6, 1981, a fire destroyed much of the church, the second such fire since the church's founding. In 1985, after four years of fundraising and rebuilding, St. Luke's was reconsecrated.

Since the 1980s, St. Luke's has been deeply affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The AIDS Project of St. Luke's has served Saturday dinner and weekend teas to over 35,000 persons with AIDS since its founding in 1987. During the last decade, St. Luke's has opened its doors to the Greenwich Village community with a festive gay pride evensong celebration, and in recent years it has participated with a sizeable parish contingent in the annual New York City lesbian and gay pride parade.


Church chancel and altar.
Church chancel and altar.

In 1994, The Rev. Dr. Roger A. Ferlo became the current rector of the church. Since then, St. Luke's has seen a great expansion in terms of its membership as well as its ministries. 

Special thanks to