Almost 20 Years Later: Construction Resumes on Church Destroyed in 9/11

Numerous historical projects have resumed work in recent weeks, including advances at Rockefeller Plaza. However, this recent news brings to mind historical events that still weigh heavily in the minds of many New Yorkers. September 11th, 2021, it will mark exactly two decades since the 9/11 attacks that took nearly 3,000 American lives and completely changed the shape of the nation forever. 

However, this somber occasion is now also slated to be marked for something happier and more hopeful: the long-awaited completion of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine. Recognized as the only house of worship to be destroyed in the attacks, efforts to rebuild it have taken nearly 20 years to come this far. Last week, construction resumed on the halfway-finished structure after two years of delays. 

What Has Been the Timeline on St Nicholas’ Church’s Rebuild?

Plans to rebuild the once-devastated structure were almost immediate. Immediately, millions in donations poured in, along with promises of construction materials, all coming from individual donors and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Greek Government, and the city of Bari, Italy. Plans to include it as part of the new World Trade Center complex also appeared as early as 2003, according to the first volume of Greek Orthodox Parishes of New York State – a Photo Tour.

Land was chosen in 2008, which would move the church from its original location on Cedar Street, where it stood for over 100 years. Its new location is at 130 Liberty Street, just south of the 9/11 memorial. Debates between the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Archdiocese would continue until 2014, with Santiago Calatrava attached to design it. The Spanish architect took inspiration from Byzantine holy places such as the Hagia Sophia.

The cornerstone was laid on October 18, 2014, and the structure topped out in 2016. This timeline is fraught with frequent delays due to funding, with construction shutting down for the hopefully final time in 2018. 

St. Nicholas Church: What Remains

When construction resumed in recent weeks, sources suggested the structure was halfway done. Cranes have moved onto the site to begin installing the skylights in the main dome—much of the new design centers around light, both what comes in and what it emits. Situated 25 feet above sea level, the church will sit above the oak trees in the Memorial Park and is designed to glow at night. 

Sources have been markedly close-lipped about any details regarding what remains to be finished, beyond what can be seen in current photos. A largely stone structure, much of the outer facade has yet to be finalized, with containment scaffolding obscuring much of its unfinished face. 

The projected 2021 completion date speaks to the work that needs to be done. Finishing the masonry for the outer structure, with the likely need for attention paid to interior details, glass work, utility installation, and more, promises to be a busy year for the firms involved in St. Nicholas’ reconstruction. 

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