Posts Tagged ‘Dry Dock District’

The remains of two streets no longer on the map

October 6, 2014

IDrydockplaygroundsignmagine the East River from 12th Street down to Grand Street lined with great ships in various stages of construction.

That was the reality along the river from the 1820s through the end of the 19th century, when today’s far East Village was known as the Dry Dock District (a dry dock is a narrow basin where ships would be built).

Drydockstreetnypl1936Thousands of New Yorkers who made their homes along Avenues B, C, and D were employed by the neighborhood industry as dock workers, mechanics, and shipbuilders.

Today, that thriving industry is long gone. Even stubby Dry Dock Street, which survived at least into the 1930s between Avenues C and D off 10th Street, no longer exists (right).

Dry Dock lives on in name only at Dry Dock Playground on 10th Street and Avenue D.

South of the playground on the north side of East Houston Street is a handsome elementary school building that has the name “Manhattan Street” lettered on one side.

Manhattanstreetschoolsign2

Manhattan Street? Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it.

This little road closed in the 1940s when the Lillian Wald Houses were built. From at least the mid-19th century, Manhattan Street cut a short path between East Third Street to East Houston Street east of Avenue D.

Manhattanstreet1861nypl

Off the Grid, the blog for the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation, recently posted a fantastic history of this forgotten pre-Civil War street.

[Second and fourth photos: NYPL Digital Gallery]

The East Village’s loveliest 19th century bell

September 14, 2013

StbrigidschurchAfter St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church underwent an expensive (and very beautiful) renovation from 2008 to 2012, church leaders reportedly didn’t have enough funds left over to put the church bell back in the tower.

So now the bell sits in front of the church on Avenue B and Eighth Street, quietly greeting passersby.

It’s a wonderful piece of East Village history dating to 1858—just 10 years after St. Brigid’s was built.

That’s when it was known as the “famine church,” as it was constructed by Irish immigrants who lived in the 19th century Dry Dock District (bas reliefs of some of their haunting faces decorate the beams inside).

Stbrigidsbell

This is a church bell with a rebel streak. In 1991, during the Tompkins Square Park riots, it played a key role warning protestors that police were heading into the park.

“Local activists, planning a response to the melee, were surprised when the bells of St. Brigid’s Church on Avenue B tolled early on June 3 to signal the arrival of hundreds of police officers at the park,” recalled The New York  Times in a 2011 article.

The upside-down ship’s hull in St. Brigid’s Church

February 16, 2013

After a four-year restoration set in motion by community groups and an anonymous $20 million donation, St. Brigid’s Church, built in 1848 on Avenue B and Eighth Street, has reopened.

EV Grieve done a great job chronicling the process and progress.

Stbrigidsceiling

It’s a magnificent restoration, and the most inspiring part might be the vaulted ceiling above the nave, which suggests “an inverted ship’s hull—no accident, since it was built by shipwrights, who are remembered in sculpted faces in the roof-supporting corbels,” as this Bloomberg article explains.

Stbrigidsceiling2

These shipwrights were Irish immigrants who came to New York in coffin ships fleeing the Irish Potato Famine.

Stbrigidsnypl1928They settled in today’s far East Village, once the Dry Dock district, laboring in shipyards on the East River from Houston Street to East 12th Street.

St. Brigid is a fitting name for a house of worship called the “famine church”—she’s the patron saint of boatmen.

Too bad the original steeples couldn’t be restored, seen here in a 1928 NYPL photo.


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