Last days for Harlem's old Baptist Temple Church

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

A green plywood fence is now up around the old Baptist Temple Church at 18-20 W 116th Street–as is the demolition permit–meaning the building's days are officially numbered.

In 2016 New York YIMBY reported that a new 11-story development with 28 apartments would take its place, and that the church would return to the new building, taking over the basement and first floor.

The demolition is part of a Harlem-wide wave in which old churches are being torn down or repurposed as the number of congregants shrinks and the price of upkeep skyrockets.

The house of worship has a fascinating history. It was built in 1906 as a synagogue for Congregation Ohab Zedek in a neighborhood that was then home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the world.

Today there are still two Stars of David atop the building's two towers and a line of them above the columns on either side of the entrance.

See a photo of the original building here.

In 1938–a mere 32 years later–the Baptist Temple Church acquired the building–and has been there ever since.

In 2009, after a crack appeared on the facade (possibly due to nearby construction work), the church was partially demolished, but the congregation eventually replaced the roof and part of the facade with modern elements.

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