The Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church was designed and constructed between 1885-1887 by John Rochester Thomas, and is a fine example of late Victorian Gothic Revival architecture. The Church Hall, now the Youth Chapel, was erected at the rear of the building between 1894 - 1895. The Church is a contributing structure of the Mount Morris Park Historic District, designated by the New York City Landmarks Commission in 1971.

Late Victorian church architecture expressed the complexity of its era, and was characterized by grand scale, verticality, intricate and picturesque massing, dynamic contrasts, complicated three-dimensionality, textural richness, and opulent detail. The style was broadly eclectic, borrowing freely from the full range of medieval precedents of the European Gothic, however, the style rarely produced literal copies of medieval buildings -- medieval forms were sought, studied, revised and modified. Neo-gothic replaced Neoclassic as the dominant style for a range of buildings, but is most closely associated with churches.

The vital use of color, texture, material and strong, sculptural shapes are the main characteristics of the style. Popular combinations are dense red or brown brick with light stone; light and dark sandstone. An insistent verticality is created by thrusting elements such as pointed arch, steep gables, spire, pinnacles and finials. Projecting surfaces show rich shadow patterns, ornament increased in quantity to create visual excitement.

The design of the Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church mainly derives from the architectural design principles and theories favored by A. W. N. Pugin, who meant that form should be an expression of the functional components of a building arranged in a convenient manner: ‘The building form should be derived from the way the building is constructed and the nature of materials employed and their intrinsic values. All ornament should consist of enrichment of the essential construction of the building, and the plan should dictate the elevation. The hierarchy of decorative elements should be determined by the social status of the client and the social importance of the building (churches were more important than parish halls) – the significance of the individual building components determine how elaborate the decoration should be.'

The documentation available indicates that John Rochester Thomas designed more buildings in New York City than any other architect of his time. Thomas was born June 12, 1848 and died on August 2, 1901. His biography states that he came from Rochester and, after completing his studies and spending two years abroad, was employed by Samuel T. Tilden, then Governor of New York State as Architect and sole Commissioner of the State Reformatory in Elmira. He left public office in 1877 to establish his own practice and among his numerous and significant commissions designed several buildings at the City University Campus, Calvary Baptist Church on west 57th street, a remodeling of the Stock Exchange and a number of schools and armories. He is most known for his work at the Ephesus Seventh Day Adventist Church and the Hall of Records building on Chambers Street completed after his death in 1911.

On January 9, 1969, the building was completely ravaged by fire. The entire interior was destroyed, resulting in the displacement of the congregation for eight years (1969-1978) during which time the members of the church worshipped at the St. Andrews Episcopal Church at 127th Street and Fifth Avenue. The interior of the building and the roof were totally rebuilt at a cost of $2.3 million and, in 1978, the congregation returned. Specification and descriptions of the work as noted on the Tuckett & Thompson drawings of 1973 are incomplete referencing only generic materials. Therefore, the extent of actual repair that was undertaken is not known.

The rebuilding respected the configuration of the original roof and the principal spaces remained the same with a few modifications to interior offices. All of the interior decorative elements and finishes were designed by the fort and not replaced. Of the few changes to the exterior appearance was the replacement of some of the destroyed stained glass panels at the two memorial windows of the Main Sanctuary (window No. 6, South Elevation and Window No. 9, North Elevation), with addition of protective glazing wire mesh guards for the stained and painted glass windows at the south elevation during the same period, 1969-1978. Protective polycarbonate sheeting for the east elevation’s stained glass windows was installed sometime after 1978, however, the exact date is unknown. The present HVAC system dates to 1978.


An ADA ramp (of tooled coursed brownstone) was added on the south elevation in the year 1994 by Harry Meltzer, the architect retained by the Gooden Construction Management, Ltd. Architectural history appears courtesy of Page Ayres Crowley Architects