When Manhattan had a French neighborhood

Or “French colony,” as this New York Times headline announces from a 1902 article. Mostly it was centered in Manhattan’s West 20s and 30s.

“The French colony is almost as old as the settlement which has grown into the present city of New York, French Huguenots having been among the early settlers of Manhattan,” reported the Times.

“But the French colony has long since lost its Huguenot character and is now largely Catholic, maintaining the Churches of St. Vincent de Paul in West 23rd Street and of Jean Baptiste in East 76th Street.”

St. Vincent de Paul, founded in 1857, still offers mass in French.

Among the other institutions anchoring the district were the Cercle Francaise de l’Harmonie, on West 26th Street, a social hub.

A battalion of the Guards of Lafayette, with headquarters on West 25th Street, “keeps alive national traditions among young Frenchmen in New York.”

As for young French women, they had the  Jeanne d’Arc Home, described as a home for “friendless French girls.” They still rent rooms to women today.

The French Benevolent Society, French Hospital, an orphanage, and several professional groups representing French chefs, waiters, and musicians also made their home in the neighborhood—now Chelsea, which has long since lost any international flavor.

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8 Responses to “When Manhattan had a French neighborhood”

  1. petey Says:

    st jean’s, where i was a boy scout, is still administered by its paris-founded congregation:

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    I’ve been to classical music concerts at St. Jean’s. It’s quite lovely and has a strangely small-town parish feel.

  3. Tweets that mention When Manhattan had a French neighborhood « Ephemeral New York -- Topsy.com Says:

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  4. Fifi Says:

    My grandmother stayed at Jeanne d’Arc Home when she came to America in the 1910s.

  5. berdachenyc Says:

    There was a noted French Quarter in the 1870’s in the area later demolished to build Washington Square Village to south east of Washington Square http://www.unz.org/Pub/Century-1879nov-00001

  6. Touring Manhattan’s 19th century French Quarter | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Like so many ethnic neighborhoods, this French Quarter didn’t last. By the turn of the century, the city’s small French colony relocated to West Chelsea. […]

  7. Helen Negron Says:

    I was born in the French Hospital 1942

  8. Claudine Sherman Says:

    I lived at Jeanne d’arc for 8 years .The best years of my life!!

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