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