Until we return to our usual schedule Jan. 3, enjoy this daily series of longer pieces in which we unravel the mysteries and the histories of storied addresses.
On cold days when I walk between Cooper and Union Squares, I find myself turning from Fourth Avenue onto East 12th Street to gaze in a sort of reverence at the façade of St. Ann’s Catholic Church. The first time I saw it, I was struggling to drag a Craigslist couch down four flights of stairs in the adjacent apartment building. Cushions in hand, I looked in awe and confusion at the strangeness of the 166-year-old stone façade, which seemed to be a trick of architecture, until I realized there was no church behind it, only long metal rods to prop up the wall and a 26-story NYU dorm casting the tower in dreary shadow.
Rich Williams has never experienced the perplexing moment of stumbling upon St. Ann’s that many East Village newbies have – nor did he watch its dismantling in 2005, as many older residents did. But in his basement in Schenectady, he still sees sunlight illuminating the dazzling colors of the early 1920s stained glass that once shone in the panes of the now-demolished church.