Description & Building Alterations
The corner lot on Avenue B and East 8th Street is occupied by St. Brigid’s Church. It also holds a vacant area behind the church on East 8th Street, which was once the site of the St. Brigid’s School, and a triangular plot of land behind the current St. Brigid’s School on Lot 1. The triangular plot was formerly an alleyway known as Seventh Street Place, and today stretches behind Lots 57-61 and Lot 64. St. Brigid’s Church was constructed in 1848 by Irish immigrants to serve the growing Irish Catholic community in the East Village during the Irish famine migrations. It was constructed by Irish shipwrights who worked in the East River shipyards in the Dry Dock District and it was designed by notable Irish-American architect Patrick Keely, who also completed a number of interior details including the altar and altar screen. He also handcarved the gothic reredos. The name St. Brigid came from a fifth-century Irish nun, the patron saint of sailors. The church eventually served Slavic, Italian, and more recently, Spanish-speaking congregations. St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church, now at 16-20 East 7th Street, held its first services here.
Patrick Charles Keely was a prominent Roman Catholic architect-builder in the midst of the biggest building boom of Catholic churches. This church is a simple Gothic church with twin towers flanking a gabled section. The facade, restored to resemble the original brownstone, has a triple portal of pointed arch doorways and three large pointed arch windows. After closure due to mounting structural concerns in the early 2000’s, an anonymous donation was made to save the church. The building has had other structural issues in the past; in 1962, the two iconic steeples on the church were dismantled due to safety concerns. Although rehabilitation is underway, there are no plans to restore the steeples; even with the large donation, the resurrection of the steeples is cost-prohibitive. The restoration of the church has resulted in a loss of carved pews, marble altar, and stained glass. The building is the inspiration for poet Frank O’Hara’s “Weather Near St. Brigid’s Steeples,” which he could see from his tenement at 441 East Ninth Street.
Block : 390 / Lot : 005 / Building Date : 1848 / Original Owner : St. Brigid’s Church / Original Use : Religious Institution / Original Architect : Patrick Keely