Monday, November 10, 2014

Countess Annie Leary Philanthropy Lives on At Bellevue Hospital Catholic Chapel NYC



Father Marani standing in front of the Leary Family Donated Stained Glass “Christ Healing the Sick” from the original Bellevue Hospital RC Chapel (1897-1938)

Salvage these days would seem to be a good business. I am glad that parts of beautiful buildings live on in other architecture.  Off topic I am poised with bated breath to hopefully follow some Salviati Venetian Glass Mosaics into their third home out of two defunct churches in Philly.

While researching a lot of dead ends, no direct flow of info, on the Internet regarding the lost Leary Chapel at Bellevue Hospital 1897-1938 I have found out that some of the Stained Glass out of Miss Annie Leary’s so-called million dollar RC chapel at Bellevue lives on in the present Catholic Chapel at the Bellevue Hospital complex in NYC.




"Chapel Hall opened in the newly built administration building in 1940. In its coverage of the consecration of the Catholic chapel, The New York Times reported that “the ceremony brought to Bellevue the distinction of being the first hospital in the world to have separate houses of worship for each of three major faiths.” (The Muslim prayer room was added in recent years.)

The new Catholic chapel, resplendent with stained-glass windows salvaged from the demolished one, was placed in the center of the hall...."

The popular repeated over and over again from some one source meme is that the Arthur Leary Chapel at Bellevue Hospital 1897-1938 cost something like one million dollars to build. I don't see much bang for the buck when I look at old photos.

NYPL - Bellevue Hospital - 1938

Doing some other research on some other gilded age micks like Annie Leary and her brother Arthur, one (one of the very few Catholics) of Mrs. Astor’s “400” in the day, I have to say that if Miss Annie Leary paid a million dollars for the little stone building on the grounds of Bellevue Hospital in 1897, she was sold a barrel of goods by the Archdiocese or the Architect William Schickel – a pig in a poke – or the press (MSM) of the day - perhaps using her grief for her older brother with exaggerated value in dollars - by using her charity work for filler and to sell copies of news to the masses or to orchestrate downright theft from the aging heiress.

That if Annie Leary paid more than $200K max for this modest chapel, she paid too much, she got ripped off by the architect, contractor or the RC archdiocese, depending on who was cashing Annie’s bank drafts. 

In searching for this magnificent piece of superior European style workmanship that the New York Times Article implies, I was greatly disappointed to see what looks like a plain exterior stone chapel on the corner of First Avenue and Twenty-eighth street in Manhattan. 



Image: Catholic World, Volume 65 - 1897
(Original Copyright Expired)
The Catholic World illustration architectural drawings (above) of William Schickel is set in their publication almost as a last minute thing and after the footnotes without any of the NYT hype about the rich woman’s generous gift to the Catholic sick at Bellevue Hospital who would not touch a secular or non-Catholic place of worship in the perhaps W.A.S.P. controlled medical facility. That stays in the hospital back then lasted days and perhaps weeks for things like pneumonia that needed antibiotics by modern standards.

That the Catholic World publication and its editors may not have cared about gilded age New York and its narcissism even in the building of a Catholic chapel right on First Avenue at arm’s length for the great new city institution.

That William Schickel had already perhaps done a spec drawing, not according to Annie Leary’s desire to memorialize her dead banker broker, but the spec watercolor and some basic spec plans were perhaps already on hand to fit the needs of Archdiocese trying to weedle its way into the Protestant ruling class controlled institution of Bellevue Hospital, the city supported hospital.  A lot of campaigning and negotiating there and no doubt through the Tammany crowd on that.  The project was envisioned but not financed at this point?

A guest at Annie Leary's Stag Breakfast after the Chapel's dedication by the Cardinal lists John Crimmins as one of the select 40 males to dine in the nearby Waldorf Astoria banquet hall. Crimmins was known for both his Catholic charity work and his business was of course construction. And he was associated with the architect on other projects, Crimmins' upper east side mansion in particular.

Here is an excellent link to one of William Schickel’s masterpieces of Most Holy Trinity / St. Mary’s in Williamsburg Brooklyn btw.

Also cursory reading on the internet has Schickel’s name not only associated with noteworthy New York church buildings but hospital buildings in NYC such as Lenox Hill (German) Hospital as well as with Bellevue.
Schickel changed his company name according to Wikipedia in 1895 which is why I think the Spec Illustration of W. Schickel and Co. was painted long before Authur Leary went to his reward in 1893. Leary's sister somewhere along the timeline probably got conned into footing the bill for the Catholic archdiocese plans to plant the Catholic flag on Episcopalian Bellevue and with its Christ the Consoler Chapel as the only place of worship on the premises.  

As for cost of the Leary Chapel, as far as I can tell the land was donated by Bellevue.  The stained glass was made in Munich, which was the architect’s native region. Do not know if this is a preference for homegrown workmanship or for cost effectiveness.

Going back to the deadends in terms of tracing salvaged stained glass windows at a secular medical facility.

With all the hype of the Chapel in the elite New York Times of the Elites of Society honoring a dead knight of "the" Mrs. Astor's "400",  it all lost its luster very quickly in time.

Whatever.

Image: A Short History Of Bellevue Hospital And Of The Training Schools – 1915
(Original Copyright Expired)



NYPL - Bellevue Hospital - 1938




Bellevue Hospital - First Avenue and 28th Street NYC
(Jan 2013 Google Maps)