We’ve long been curious about the history of the All Saints Ukrainian Church, which we pass by everyday because it’s located just down the block from our offices in the Neighborhood Preservation Center. Located at 206 East 11th Street, the church has been faced with stucco for as long as we can remember. Thus we were excited to uncover two historic photos from the New York Public Library that reveal its original facade!
Though it’s unclear when the stucco went up, we do know a few other tidbits of history associated with this church. Because we’ve researched the history of every building in the East Village, we’re aware that it was constructed in 1851-52 and originally housed the Welsh Congregational Church, which continued to operate out of the building until well into the 20th century. In 1944 the building was sold to the Free Magyar Reformed Church of New York for a Hungarian congregation.
One of the great things about the East Village is its history of adaptive reuse. Scores of buildings originally constructed for specific purposes have been converted to new uses over and over again.
No. 206 East 11th Street is no exception. It remained a church until 1960, when it was converted to an off-Broadway playhouse owned by St. John Terrell, “a flamboyant Chicago-born actor and impresario who pronounced his name Sinjin and led a campaign to clear Richard III’s blackened name,” according to his 1998 obituary in the New York Times. A renowned and eccentric talent, Terrell left behind a great legacy as the founder of the Lambertbville Music Circus in New Jersey and the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, PA. Terrell was known for being a showman, and every Christmas Day for 25 years he dressed as George Washington to re-enact his famous 1776 crossing of the Delaware River.
“Moon on a Rainbow Shawl,” the East 11th Street Theatre’s first show, began its run in 1962 starring a young James Earl Jones whose career was just taking off. He received an Obie for his performance in the show.
The building’s run as a theater was short-lived, however, and by 1971 it resumed use as a church operated by the All Saints Ukrainian Orthodox Church of NYC, Inc, which still occupies the building today. We were intrigued to walk by a few weeks ago and notice a new addition to the facade: tilework depicting the Eastern Orthodox cross. We would love to know more about the artist behind this work, who we think did a beautiful job making the church’s facade as colorful as its history. Any readers have tips on this?