Posts Tagged ‘Irish Immigrants New York City’

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.

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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.

A lynching on a Greenwich Village street in 1863

January 14, 2013

ClarksonstreetsignAt 6 p.m. on the hot evening of July 13, 1863, William Jones, an African-American cartman, left his Clarkson Street home to buy a loaf of bread.

He couldn’t have known that a vicious mob enraged by the Civil War had begun a five-day rampage known as the Draft Riots. And Jones was right in their path.

The rioters were mostly working-class Irish immigrants. They were angry about a federal draft law that conscripted poor men while allowing their wealthier counterparts to buy their way out of the army. And they feared newly freed blacks would come to New York and take their jobs.

That morning, after destroying a draft office at Third Avenue and 47th Street, crowds of rioters dispersed around Manhattan.

Clarksonstreetlynching

They burned the homes of draft supporters, destroyed train tracks, beat wealthy residents, torched and looted the Brooks Brothers store, and attacked police and soldiers.

Their rage was directed especially toward black New Yorkers: they set fire to the Colored Orphan Asylum on Eighth Avenue and 44th Street, killed a black coachman on West 27th Street, and chased three black men who happened to be walking down Varick Street.

Clarksonstreetlynchingharpers2Those three got away. That’s when the mob targeted Jones.

“A crowd of rioters in Clarkson Street . . . met an inoffensive colored man returning from a bakery with a loaf of bread under his arm,” states an 1863 police report about the Draft Riots.

“They instantly set upon and beat him, and after nearly killing him, hung him to a lamp-post. His body was left suspended for several hours. A fire was made underneath him, and he was literally roasted as he hung, the mob reveling in their demonic act.”

A total of 119 people were killed; an estimated 11 of those were black. Finally on July 16, 6,000 soldiers hit the streets, and things went back to normal.

The city’s black residents did not. Twenty percent left the city for good.

[above: an illustration from the NYPL]


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