Interchurch Center Fun Facts

Interesting Facts about The Interchurch Center

1-10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 41-50 | 51-60 | 61-62

Fact 1-10
  • The original name of The Interchurch Center was The Protestant Center. It was changed in 1956 to The Interchurch Center in order to be more inclusive.
  • Alternative choices of names to The Interchurch Center included “National Church Center”, United Church Center, American Churches Center, “American Inter-Church Center”, National Inter-Church Center, and “Inter-Church Center of the U.S.A.
  • The land the building is on what used to be the Barnard tennis courts.
  • Other possible cities for what became The Interchurch Center included Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Pittsburgh. Among the list of criteria in choosing a city was “freedom from racial prejudice in all community life”.
  • One of the early designs for the building included a plan to link the parking areas of The Interchurch Center and Riverside Church with a vehicular tunnel under 120th street so that the parking facilities could be shared by both institutions.
  • When the building opened in 1960, people were upset that the Chi Rho in the chapel looked too much like a dancing girl so it was covered up and eventually replaced. The original Dancing Girl Chi Rho was given to St. Paul’s Chapel at Columbia University.
  • It took 7,735 tons of structural steel, 86 cars of Alabama limestone and 7,500 gallons of paint to build the building.
  • The North corridor is “The Hall of the Ministers” and honors “All those who have answered the call of God have fought the good fight and kept the faith and have proclaimed the riches of His love at home and abroad, as preachers, teachers, as chaplains and pastors, as missionaries and administrators, in devoted service to their parishes, to their communions and to the Church Universal”. The South corridor is the “The Hall of the Laymen” and honors “All lay men and women of the household of God who with faith in the immeasurable greatness of His power have labored as officers, Bible teachers musicians and stewards of His grace in devoted service to their parishes, to their communions and to the Church Universal”.
  • When the building opened people in the neighbored complained that it was too Stalinist.
  • NASA (U.S. National Aeronautical and Space Administration) was one of the original tenants. They rented offices on the 4th and 19th floors to work on a huge computer project. They wanted to renew their five year lease but withdrew when religious organizations with higher space priorities sought additional office space.
Fact 11-20
    • When the building was first opened students and faculty of Barnard College were mystified by the monstrous building that was destroying their view of the Hudson. They were even more confused by the activity that would be carried on at the building. When informed that it would be occupied by religious organizations. One young woman responded “I am concerned about the disturbance. How can we possibly study with hundreds of people across the street singing hymns all day?”
    • The dedication of The Interchurch Center was recorded in the Congressional Record by a statement made by House Representative of New York Herbert Zelenko NY 21st Congressional District.
    • There was a pedestrian tunnel that connected The Interchurch Center to Riverside Church. It was closed in 1975 for security reasons. In 1981 the tunnel was sealed off.
    • The cornerstone is made from marble from the Agora in Corinth, where the apostle Paul lived and preached. It was through the efforts of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America that a permit was obtained from the Greek government to allow for a historic stone from a national monument to be shipped out of the country.
    • Among items in the sealed bronze box inside the cornerstone is a Revised Standard Version of the Bible and a recording of President Eisenhower’s speech.
    • Right before the procession was to begin for the Laying of the Cornerstone President Eisenhower had to take an emergency call from Secretary of State John Foster Dulles regarding an update on the Red Chinese shelling of nationalist islands Quemoy and Matsu.
    • Fifteen combined choirs and a seventy-five hand bell ringer ensemble participated in the Laying of the Cornerstone on October 12, 1958.
    • The first tenants to move into the building were The National Council of Churches in October 1959. The staff reported hearing cooing sounds and the flutter of wings coming from the ceiling. It was discovered that while the building was still a shell of open concreate and steel, pigeons had nested overhead and been trapped when the walls and windows were completed. Workers were able to free the pigeons.
    • When the building first opened the lobby did not have a directory causing much confusion for both tenants and visitors. It also led to a rumor in the 60’s that a ghost wandered the halls with a package dated October 1959.
    • The first five exhibits to open the Gallery were: Religious Freedom in America, The Bible From Clay Tablet to RSV, Church Unity Through Hymnody, Byzantine Art in Service of Christianity, The Interchurch Center and Its Members.


Fact 21-30
  • In 1961 over 10,000 post cards of The Interchurch Center were sold.
  • The R.S.V. Bible Room was dedicated in 1964. Each plaque set in the wall above its special cabinet exhibit, relates to an historic translation of the Bible
  • The door of the Narthex is inlaid with 10 different crosses: the Latin Cross, the Celtic Cross, the Crusader Cross, the Tau Cross (or St. Anthony’s Cross), the Anchor Cross, the Greek Cross, the Russian Cross, the Maltese Cross, the St. Andrew Cross, and the Cross Crosslet.
  • The ceiling of the Narthex is made up of a thousand tiny Lucite tubes embedded in the ceiling.
  • The menu for the Dedication dinner on June 1, 1960 consisted of: Pineapple au Naturel, prime rib of beef au jus, buttered broccoli, baked potato, tossed green salad, olives, celery, ice cream cake roll, and coffee.
  • Mahalia Jackson performed in the chapel June 19, 1963.
  • A photo of The Interchurch Center can be found in the brochure of The Protestant and Orthodox Center exhibit for the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
  • The menu to celebrate the moon landing included: a cup of splash down green pea soup, Roast Beef A La Armstrong, Moon peas, solar succotash, orbit of cauliflower, Apollo XI Mashed pot
  • During 1970 the 26th Precinct and its Narcotics Squad set up an exhibit in the cafeteria lounge to demonstrate narcotics equipment and discuss drug abuse.  The exhibit attracted a large number of people.
  • In 1972 the Interchurch Center received Ruth Nickerson’s sculpture Axiom One as a permanent work of art. It is based on the Confucius quotation “Within the four seas all men are brothers. The sculpture was previously displayed in the main concourse of the United Nations headquarters.
Fact 31-40
  • In 1973 The Board of Trustees created Project Forward ‘76 (Freedom of Religion Will Advance Real Democracy).  The goal of the project was to facilitate planning for strong spiritual and religious emphasis in observances of the American Bicentennial, 1974-1976. The project was officially recognized as a national Bicentennial program by the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration in 1974.  The program offered research, technical help and resources to assist religious organizations and other groups around the country interested in spiritual/religious dimensions of Bicentennial observances with special emphasis on religious freedom.  Services included: a national information bank with plans, programs, and materials; a newsletter; planning assistance by national and regional staff personnel; and scholarly research.
  • In 1975 due to a series of electrical emergencies the building was left without ventilation, air-conditioning or heating from August 14 to mid-October. Due to the high winds of the area and the fact that the building was designed as a “sealed” building and windows were only to be opened for washing special precautions had to be taken. Despite the precautions two windows were broken fortunately no one was injured.
  • In 1976 there were 26 bomb threats made to the building. The calls usually came around 3:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon. Once word circulated through the building that newly installed telephone equipment made it possible to identify the source of calls, the frequency of the calls stopped
  • 34. On September 12, 1978 a suspicious package was found in the chapel addressed to William P. Thompson Stated Clerk of the United Presbyterian Church and the President of the National Council of Churches. The package was found to contain three sticks of dynamite but no trigging device. The source of the package was never discovered.
  • A special souvenir drinking glass commemorating the 20th Anniversary was created in 1979. The 10 ounce iced tea glass featured a drawing of the Center on one side and the legend “The Interchurch Center – 475 Riverside Drive – Twentieth Anniversary 1979-1980” on the other. The glass was sold in the Cafeteria filled with soda for 75₵. Or at the reception desk for 50₵
  • In June of 1979 King Kong and a robot visited The Interchurch Center. The exhibit program for June 1979 was “Childart ‘79”, a collection of artwork created by children and grandchildren of people who worked in the building. The 475 Newsletter reported “There is a mixed media construction called Robot by a 4-year old….watercolors and pencil sketches, magic marker drawings…a ceramic sneaker and two dinosaurs. And don’t miss King Kong, the greatest, fiercest, nicest monster of all”.
  • The first Ash Wednesday service was started in 1979.
  • On September 6, 1979 the Dalai Lama visited the Center for a reception and luncheon as a guest of the National Council of Churches.
  • On the evening of October 3, 1979, two glass doors at the Riverside Drive entrance were broken by someone who said “I want to see Jesus Christ. I know he is in this building.”
  • The first ATM was installed in the building in March of 1980.
Fact 41-50
  • In May of 1980 the post office gave The Interchurch Center its own zip code of 10115.
  • The Interchurch Center once held property at 49 Claremont Avenue and 468 Riverside Drive in the hopes of expanding. For a variety of reasons this never happened. Barnard College bought 49 Claremont Avenue in 1980. 468 Riverside Drive was sold to the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board of The American Baptist Church in 1981.
  • The Orthodox Room used to house a religious exhibit of icons and other Eastern Orthodox Church art objects on standing loan from Paul M. Fekula, a member of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America. Among the treasures were a parchment manuscript about 700 years old, icons dating from the 14th century, and a Slavonic worship book printed in 1537. When Mr. Fekula died in 1982 without a will The Interchurch Center lost the collection. The incident was written about in the art magazine the Connoisseur in an article by Ava Platkins called A Cautionary Tale (Gault 113).
  • In 1982, when Ruth Stafford Peale was elected chairman of the Board she adamantly refused to be called “chairperson”. “I am the chairman,’ she said, we know what that means!”
  • In 1982, ID badges were required at all times not just after hours, after several security issues. In February the offices of the Council of Churches of the City of New York were taken over by dissident faction protesting certain policies of the council. Police were needed to remove the protestors. Word was received from the police department and the FBI reporting rumors of a possible bomb threat against the World Council of Churches because of recently promulgated statements on the political situation in the Middle East. In May the World Council of offices on the tenth floor were occupied by a dozen young men from the Jewish Defense League who somehow managed to exclude the staff and barricade the doors. The police had to be called in to reclaim the offices and it was necessary to break through the walls.
  • In 1983, the cafeteria introduced the salad bar. Since the price was calculated by weight some patrons tried to minimize the cost by eating some of their salad on line before they reached the cashier. This prompted Dr. Tiller to write in the newsletter “In the cafeteria please do not eat the food until after … you have paid for it. We prefer to weigh the salads, not the customers.”
  • The Gospel Choir was formed in December of 1983 by the chapel committee. It was originally called The Interchurch Church Center Contemporary Gospel Choir but was quickly shorted to The Gospel Choir. Their first performance was on February 15, 1984.
  • In 1984 during Lent The Angel of 475 made an appearance in the chapel. The Angel was constructed by artist Nancy Chinn of San Anselmo, California. Made of silky gauze, the abstract angel extended from the chancel floor to the celling near the left edge of the alabaster window and feather like wings extended to the back of the chapel along the ceiling and was spotlighted from below.
  • On July 4, 1986, in celebration of the centennial of the Statue of Liberty, there was a flotilla of tall ships from around the world in New York Harbor. More than a thousand members of The Interchurch Center community, their family, and friends had a great view of the parade of ships from the windows of the building. The cafeteria sold hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, and soda.
  • In May of 1987 organist John Schuder produced recording of The Chapel Organs at The Interchurch Center. The recording was available in both record and cassette tape formats.
Fact 51-60
  • In 1988 the Gallery had a display of the The Crayon Brigade. The display was made up of letters written by American children to be sent to the Soviet Union in celebration of the Christian Millennium. Conceived by the National Council of Churches it generated more than 25,000 cards, letters and posters from churches, scout groups and other youth organizations.
  • The Interchurch Center Medical office was originally the Associated Mission Medical Office run by the National Council of Churches. In 1989 responsibility of the health service was transferred to The Interchurch Center.
  • SERRV Shop (Sales Exchange for the Refugee Rehabilitation Vocations) was located in the Orthodox Room.
  • In 1991, Board of Trustees “RESOLVED, that moderate amounts of wine may be served for free at catered functions in Interchurch common areas after the close of the business day”. Four board members objected to this resolution. In May 2000, beer was allowed under the same provisions as wine.
  • In March of 1997 installation of the building wide Internet system was begun.
  • In 1997 The Interchurch Center assumed responsibility for the care of Riverside Park, 119-120 Streets.  Maintenance was performed by homeless people being retrained by Broadway Community, Inc. In the fall 1,000 daffodil bulbs were planted by tenants and staff.
  • The current logo was adopted in February of 1998. The logo depicts leaves on a curving branch of the tree of life. That branch connects squares that otherwise would have no connection.
  • Although smoking was restricted in the cafeteria and public meeting spaces tenants were allowed to smoke in their offices. In May of 2000, The Interchurch Center Board voted to ban smoking completely from the building.
  • The Claremont entrance was turned into a NYPD station for an October 8, 2010 episode of Blue Bloods.
  • In the mid-nineties there would be a building wide barbecue every June complete with food, country western music, and cowboy hats
Fact 61-62
  • Q: How much rebar was installed during the reconstruction of the garage?
    A: Rebar installation 86440 linear Feet = 16.371212 miles
  • Q: How much concrete was trucked into the garage?
    A: 230 yards = 6210 Cubic