Altar of St. Philip's Episcopal Church

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circa 1889


Firm of Vertner W. Tandy and George Washington Foster, Jr.


Courtesy of Christopher Moore

When St. Philip's moved from its Mulberry Street building to a new location furrther uptown at 161 West 25th Street, Cornelia Guignon and her brother Peter Williams Ray asked the firm of Tandy and Foster to design an altar in honor of their parents. Vertner W. Tandy was the first African-American architect registered in the State of New York and George Washington Foster, Jr. was among the first African-Americans to practice in the architectural profession.

In its June 20, 1891 issue,the New York Age gave an elaborate description of the altar: "From the richly molded base of the altar rise fourteen pinnacle buttresses forming ten bays and a canopied central recess which contains in a deep niche the Agnus Dei and resting on the Book of Seven Seals. The bays are filled with delicately executed tracery divided in two sections by moldings. The top of the altar is supported by a bold cornice enriched with a carved grapevine in conventional treatment. In its execution, as well as in the substantial proportions of the different sections, the altar is conceded to be one of the best pieces of high art work in marble ever seen."



Firm of Vertner W. Tandy and George Washington Foster, Jr. , “Altar of St. Philip's Episcopal Church,” Black Gotham Archive, accessed July 10, 2018,