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The Gym at Judson



243 Thompson St.
New York, NY 10012

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Theater Description:

The Gym at Judson

The Gym at Judson cultivates an uncensored environment for professional productions, developing workshop performances, as well as all other artistic endeavors, inviting established and emerging talent to exchange creative energies and encouraging unique interdependent community in the arts.
Since opening its doors in May 2011, The Gym has presented world premieres of Lysistrata Jones, Douglas Carter Beane and Lewis Flinn's pop musical, which moved to the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway, and Michael John LaChiusa's Queen of the Mist, starring Mary Testa. 

Judson Memorial Church and Judson Hall and Tower were built in 1892 on the designs of McKim, Mead & White. John D. Rockefeller, Sr. was the chief benefactor in the 1880s and 1890s, who made its construction possible.

The story begins with Edward Judson (1844-1913), a Baptist minister who gave up a prosperous parish in Orange, New Jersey, to minister to the new Americans who then filled the area south of here between the two rivers. In 1875 he became the pastor of the Berea Baptist Church at 117 West 15th Street. He lived at 35 Washington Square West. One of the objects of his mission was to have a splendid church. "If I had my way," he said, "I would put the most beautiful churches among the homes of the poor, so that it would be only a step from the squalor of the tenement house . . ." This was his vision. It would not be just an ordinary church but an institutional church, with all the facilities and activities of a settlement house.

The elder Rockefeller, a Baptist communicant all his life who even taught Sun-day school, had the Baptist Church as his first charity. He would visit Baptist churches and meet their pastors; in this way he came to know of Judson and his work. In 1887, when the pastor took up a campaign to build a new church building, he naturally turned to the philanthropist who was, by then, among his largest contributors.

It should be pointed out that the church was not named for him but for his father, Adinoram Judson (1788-1850), graduate of Brown University. The elder Judson was one of those Protestant missionaries who fanned out around the globe from the eastern United States. In 1813 he and his wife sailed to Burma. Very much part of his mission was to translate the Bible into Burmese. Having accomplished that, he produced a Burmese-English, English-Burmese diction-ary with the help of his wife. His son, instead of following his father abroad, turned to the home mission.

The style of the church is Lombardo-Romanesque. New Englanders, familiar with the Catholic churches of Eastern Massachusetts, will recognize the style, the favorite of the architectural firm, Maginnis & Walsh. McKim, Mead & White were already the city's leading firm and, as masters of the eclectic, could handle the style. It will be noticed that the brick is the long thin Roman kind which was a favorite of theirs, also to be seen in the Century Association on West 43rd Street, built about the same time.

Artists made their contribution. La Farge designed glass windows which are still in the church, and Herbert Adams, sculptor of the bronze figure of William Cullen Bryant in Bryant Park, did a relief for the chancel.