25 July 2008

Half a Church

Some East Villagers, as they're strode up Lafayette Street, may have noticed this someone grandish, red-brick back end of a building hiding behind an unlovely parking garage on Great Jones.

If you think it looks like it was once part of something important, it was. The arched structure was long ago the aspe of an old neo-Gothic church known as the Mission Chapel of the Immaculate Virgin. It was founded by the Rev. Father John. C. Drumgoole.

Drumgoole was apparently a remarkable fellow. For 21 years, he was the Janitor and Sexton for St. Mary's Church, where he let many poor children living on the streets use the basement for shelter. He trained them as altar boys and educated them. Drumgoole was ordained in 1868 and jot a job at his old employer, St. Mary's. In 1871, he took control St. Vincent’s Home for Homeless Boys of All Occupations, calling it "Newboys Home." Soon it was full of boys paying 25 cents a night for lodging and board.

In 1881, Drumgoole established the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin for the Protection of Homeless and Destitute Children, a then-humongous, 10-story building at Great Jones and Lafayette. It has classrooms and libraries on the 2nd floor, living quarters were on the upper floors and the 1st rooftop playground in New York. Again, 25 cents was the fare.

And he kept on. In 1882, he purchased a 138-acre farm off Raritan Bay on the southern tip of Staten Island. It was named Mount Loretto. It was home to hundreds of kids and was a working farm. 1,000 quarts of milk were produced daily. The barn housed 300 head of cattle and 50 horses, and the pen kept 600 pigs. Drumgoole died in 1888. Apparently, a statue was erected in 1894. Who knows where that is.

In the late 19th century, the congregation broke up and the Great Jones church building was sold. Whoever bought it redid the front for commercial purposes, but left the back as is. And there it remains today, the Mission Chapel of the Immaculate Parking Garage.


Kirsten Miller said...

Very cool. Thanks for digging up the info. I've been trying to figure out what purpose that back building might have served for the past decade or so. Do you know what's inside today?

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Sorry, no idea, Kiki.

Unknown said...

In the third paragraph of "Half a Church" you have the date of 1971, which is a typo. I'm sure you meant 1871.

However, I was so happy to read your article on the building. I spent a few years at Father Drumgoole's Mission of the Immaculate Virgen on Staten Island as a child. Every year we have a Reunion on the third Saturday of September. In 2010, it will mark a 100th celebration. We would like to let every "Mission Kid" around the country know so that they can show up and celebrate our uniqueness.

Thank you so much for your article. I loved it and will send the link to a bunch of our alumni.

God bless.


Anonymous said...

The statue was moved to Mount Loretto to stand in the center lawn facing the Church of St. Joachim and Anne. The statue, 10 feet in height, depicts Fr. Drumgoole with 2 boys on either side of him - a
well-dressed boy reading a book and a ragged boy with his newspapers alongside. The 2 boys
are actually the same boy, named Pat, before and after meeting Fr. Drumgoole.