Jan 312011


By Denise Mattia

If you were in New York in the 80’s you’re likely to remember the Limelight nightclub, on Sixth Avenue and 20th Street. The 19th century Gothic Revival church formerly the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion, had undergone several metamorphoses, and now has become the chic Limelight Marketplace, New York’s Festival of Shops.


Built in 1846, the small yet radical church was one of the first in New York to have weekly communion services. In 1852 its sisterhood pioneered new fields of church social ministry for women, and in 1883 the church hosted the first convention of black Episcopal clergymen. Over the next century, as the parish became industrialized, the congregation decreased in size and wealth and in 1966 was deconsecrated and vacated.  It was spared from the wrecking ball, having been designated a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission a decade earlier.  The medieval edifice was used as a drug-rehab center until 1980 when it was turned into the notoriously racy, drug induced Limelight nightclub, which was raided frequently and was finally closed down by New York’s finest in 2008.

Today, the ribbed, vaulted roof houses 50 unique shops and eateries in the renovated building.  Still visible are the Tiffany leaded wheel windows.  Sadly they’re in disrepair, and surrounding buildings and outside layers of plexiglass prevent their color from shining through during daylight hours.  Still, sweet, specialty and gourmet food shops line the ambulatories, where the tops of the pointed arches can be seen, jewelry collections and beauty aids adorn the eaves and radiating chapels and antique memorabilia and high-style home furnishing collections butt against Romanesque columns.  Among the many snack-food places (Grimaldi’s pizza among the tastiest), there’s a wine bar and restaurant, appropriately called Cana, located at the top level.

It’s hopeful that the developers of this century’s old building will restore and maintain the outside façade, while opening its doors to welcome visitors to a host of heavenly delights.


As appeared in Tripatini.com

Denise Mattia

About Denise Mattia

A writer and photographer, Denise Mattia’s works are published nationally and internationally and include all aspects of leisure travel: art , culture, resorts, spas, food and wine and sports’ activities. She's the founder of the soon to be launched Yum-Yum-Traveler, a site devoted to reviewing restaurants in addition to her travel articles from around the world. She lives and works in Manhattan, where she was born.

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