The Church of the Good Shepherd, built by the Paulist Fathers on land purchased from the Isham family, has been a spiritual and social center for Inwood’s Roman Catholic community for more than one hundred years. The priests ‘ ultimate aim was to establish a great Catholic centre in a part of the city which, in the near future, is destined to have a large population. Good Shepherd Church 1915.
The first church was a wood frame building that was moved across Cooper Street around 1930 and later razed to make way for an addition to the elementary school. As Inwood’s population increased in the 1930s following the opening of the IND subway under Broadway, the need for a larger facility for the predominantly Irish congregation was recognized. Architect Paul Monaghan was commissioned in 1935 to design the present church, a handsome, Romanesque-style building featuring a random coursed granite facade with limestone and granite trim and a roof of terra-cotta barrel tile. Three stained glass windows set between stepped buttresses are recessed above a prominent porch that projects onto the street. The building’s massing gives it prominence as a work of architecture and a symbol of the community. An impressive interior space seats approximately 1,000 people.
Shortly after the first church was built, a rectory, designed by the firm of Maynicke and Franke, was constructed on the corner of Cooper and Isham Streets, just south of Isham Park, in 1914. Good Shepherd Church 1914Reminiscent of the Church of the Intercession (Cram and Goodhue, 1912), the simple and well-defined building has Gothic-inspired detailing kept at a minimum and communicates its purpose through strength of form and efficiency of material. The walls are constructed of Fordham gneiss, which was most likely quarried to the north of Manhattan in the Bronx. It is accentuated by the use of horizontal bands of a contrasting color. The siting of the new church blocked views the rectory once had to the Harlem River; the large window openings now look out to the back of the church. During the 1930s, an elementary school and convent were constructed adjacent the site. Originally established to minister to Inwood’s Irish community, the Church of the Good Shepherd of today with the aid of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars, Province of St. Mary serve a largely Hispanic congregation. The church demonstrates a phase of growth for northern Manhattan and is a reminder of the physical presence of Inwood’s middle-income Irish Catholic population.
Courtesy of the Columbia University Historic Preservation Studio http://www.arch.columbia.edu/hp/