Built for the minister Edwin Judson (and named after his father) this
Baptist church was an anomaly in the wealthy residential district of
Washington Square. It functioned as a mission church, stabilizing the
neighborhood at the point of transition between the upper class area of
the Square and the poorer neighborhood immediately to the west. In order
to further this goal, the Judson Hotel--a tower for housing the poor--was
added to the church in 1895. The church's activist social engagement
continued through the 1960's, and to this today.
Using his connections with the Rockefellers, the Astors and Stanford White, Judson was able to build an inexpensive but impressive home for his modest congregation. White's erudite design incorporated a variety of historical styles with which he had become familiar during his travels in Europe. The church is an eclectic composite of Byzantine, Romanesque and Renaissance forms, built in thin Roman brick embellished with terra-cotta, marble and limestone ornament. The tower draws inspiration from medieval Rome. White's elegant transhistorical design was meant to evoke Europe while creating a new American style. Judson's connections also enabled him to recruit John LaFarge for the stained glass windows and Herbert Adams for the marble relief on the chancel's south wall (produced according to plans by Saint-Gaudens).