Manhattan's Duffy Square: The Man Behind the Name

Duffy Square as it was in 1904

Duffy Square is the northern triangle of Times Square in Manhattan, New York City. It is located between 45th and 47th Streets, Broadway and Seventh Avenue and is well known for the TKTS reduced-price theater tickets booth located there.

In the 18th and 19th centuries Lowes Lane connected Bloomingdale Road to Eastern Post Road. The west end of the lane was at the modern Duffy Square, and the east end at approximately the modern Third Avenue and 42nd Street. Lowes Lane and Eastern Post Road were suppressed late in the 19th century, but Bloomingdale Road survives under the name of Broadway.

Duffy Square was briefly dominated by a fifty-foot, eight-ton plaster statue entitled Purity (Defeat of Slander) by Leo Lentelli in 1909.  Now the square has two statues, one of Chaplain Francis P. Duffy of New York's "Fighting 69th" Infantry Regiment (also known as "The Irish Brigade," and later "The Fighting Irish), after whom the square is named, and another depicting composer, playwright, producer and actor George M. Cohan, by sculptor Georg J. Lober.  The square and the statue of Duffy were dedicated by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia on May 2, 1937.  The statue of Duffy (pictured at below) and the square itself were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.

About Francis P. Duffy

Already well known in theological circles, Duffy gained wider fame for his involvement as a military chaplain during World War I, when the 69th New York ("The Fighting 69th") was federalized again and redesignated the 165th U.S. Infantry Regiment.  As Duffy described non-Irish who join the regiment, "They are Irish by adoption, Irish by association, or Irish by conviction."

When the unit moved up to the front in France, Duffy accompanied the litter bearers in recovering the wounded and was frequently seen in the thick of battle. Recognized by the regimental commander, Lieutenant Colonel William "Wild Bill" Donovan – who would go on to found the OSS in World War II) – as a key element in the unit's morale, Duffy's role in the unit went beyond that of a normal cleric: the regiment was composed primarily of first- and second-generation Irish immigrants from New York City, many of whom wrote later about Duffy's leadership. Brigadier General Douglas MacArthur admitted later that Duffy was very briefly considered for the post of regimental commander.

For his actions in the war, Duffy was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal, the Conspicuous Service Cross (New York State), the Légion d'Honneur (France), and the Croix de Guerre. Duffy is the most highly decorated cleric in the history of the U.S. Army.

I don't know the county from which Duffy's ancestors emigrated as I have yet to find any information on that.  I do know that the Duffy surname (Ó Dubhthaigh in the original Irish) historically arose in counties Donegal, Roscommon, and Monaghan.  Perhaps someone out there has done research on this son of Dubhthaigh and knows the answer to that question.

Source: Wikipedia

Views: 1075

Tags: Canada, Diaspora History, Faith, Military History, NYC, New York, United States, WWI

Comment by Jim Roark on August 8, 2014 at 9:10am

In the 1940s movie The Fighting 69th, Father Duffy is splendidly portrayed by Pat O'Brien.

Comment by frank mcloughlin on August 8, 2014 at 9:45am

fr. duffy was a canadian, so maybe the search should begin there.

Comment by Erin M O'Neill on August 8, 2014 at 7:41pm

My maternal grand-father Thomas F. Gowdy was the aide to Father Duffy during WWII.

Comment by John W. Hurley on August 12, 2014 at 9:55pm

Thanks for posting this Ryan. I have always been fascinated by Father Duffy's archetypal role as the warrior-priest with the 69th. His father's family was from Cavan and his mother's was from Roscommon; he was one of 11 children.


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