After 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).
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.