Centerbrook designed the expansion and renovation for St. John’s Church, whose original core is a meeting house-style building – much added on to over the years – that dates to 1836 and overlooks Cold Spring Harbor on the north shore of Long Island.

The goal of the project, which was informed by an inclusive design workshop process with the congregation, was to add a new chapter to the church’s story: to maintain its sacred space; to make it more welcoming and accessible; and to foster social interaction after services. The sanctuary, as an example, was reconfigured to provide accessibility for the choir and to serve communion. Exterior pathways and terraces are now more accessible and make traveling between the church and the parish house easier. An elevator now connects the first and second floors of the parish house.

The project encompassed a larger narthex – or main entry vestibule, revised pew layout, restoration of the tripartite stained glass window at the rear of the chancel, and the addition of space behind the alter for a new grand organ and console. The parish house was redesigned to add more usable space without increasing its size and to make it more welcoming to all parishioners. The outdoor courtyard was redesigned to accommodate the entire congregation for outdoor events, such as weddings overlooking a nearby pond.

The project also entailed upgrading various infrastructure and systems in the church and parish house: accessibility is improved throughout; new meeting and office spaces have been created in the parish house; patios have been established outdoors along with improved landscaping. Heating and cooling are now more efficient, lighting and electrical systems are improved, the kitchen has been modernized, and the sacristy renovated.

The organ was hand crafted by Casavant Frères of Quebec, the foremost facteur d’orgues in the world, and it is now the centerpiece of the historic church. St. John’s is the 3,897th organ fashioned by the Canadian firm, which was founded in 1879 and sends its exquisite creations all around the world. The massive instrument, roughly 18-feet by 18-feet by 20-feet tall, was built to fit snuggly in the new space designed for it.

Photography © Jeff Goldberg/Esto