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Abandoned church takes one more step towards becoming Children’s Museum

The Children’s Museum of Manhattan is pressing ahead with its transformation of an abandoned church on Central Park West into its new home.

The Museum has just released new renderings of the FXCollaborative design and announced the addition of exhibition specialists, Local Projects, to its development team.

 “Our new building project will bring an iconic landmark back to life in service of the community and New York City children. It is exciting to be moving into this next phase of planning for our new home, with the addition of Local Projects to our project team,” said Matt Messinger, co-chair of CMOM’s Board of Directors.

361 Central Park West was designed in 1903 by Carrère and Hastings as The First Church of Christ, Scientist. The building was designated a New York City landmark in 1974 and was deconsecrated and abandoned in the past decade. It was purchased by CMOM in 2017.

The adaptive reuse project will preserve and restore the granite exterior of the former church and create more accessible public entries with wood and glass doors and decorative screen transom. The historic walnut doors will be relocated to the interior of the entry vestibule.

The museum will have a welcoming new entrance, huge stained glass windows and a copper-clad attic space connected to outdoor terraces. Renderings via FXCollaborative

Upon entering the 86,000 s/f museum building, visitors will have glimpses of the giant barrel vault above as well as of the exhibition spaces interspersed throughout the museum’s four floors. Increased amenities will welcome children, their caretakers, and families on the ground floor and facilitate their museum visit.

The interior will be designed as an interweaving of the old and new, with a layout that takes advantage of building’s window placement to maximize light and views.

 FXCollaborative will activate concealed skylights and introduce new roof apertures, restore the stained-glass windows of the former church and replace religious iconography with clear glass but keeping the original decorative borders on each.

A central stair will connect the visitor’s journey through four floors of exhibition space conceived by Local Projects together with CMOM’s professional staff.

Elevators will bring visitors up to a new workshop space, located within the reimagined attic at the top of the building, created for specialized programming, classes, and performances.

The modern addition, clad in copper connects visitors to outdoor terraces that frame the dramatic stone lantern and steeple.

Sylvia Smith, FAIA, Senior Partner at FXCollaborative, who is leading the design of the project, said, “I have always loved 361 Central Park West and used to sketch it during my wanderings around the city. Its innovations in construction and use of grand barrel vaults and steel trusses foster gracious and welcoming interior spaces.


 “We seek to maintain the architectural integrity and holistic character of this historic structure,  both inside and out, and transform a once trend-setting building into a forward-looking, vibrant center for the community.”

More information on new building project plans and timeline will be shared in 2021. In the meantime, programming continues onsite at the CMOM’s current location at 83rd Street, which re-opened to the public on October 16. Children and their families can choose between two small-group adventures, led by CMOM educators.

Ticketing is timed and advance reservation required to ensure a safe, socially distanced experience.

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