There are many Irish 'spots' in New York City that intrigue me, but perhaps none more so than St. Patrick's Old Cathedral. The edifice, today a parish church, is at turns historic, memorable, symbolic, poignant, spiritual, and evocative -- in a word, haunting.
St. Patrick's Old Cathedral didn't start out that way, clearly. "Old," that is. It only gained that distinction when the new St. Patrick's Cathedral arose three miles north, supplanting the prior archiepiscopal seat.
The contrast between the two churches couldn't be greater, at least in my mind, nor could the difference between the relative handful of Irish that worshipped in old St. Patrick's in 1809 and the teeming masses that came to populate the later, far more grandiose version.
For comparison, those of Irish ancestry in the United States may have numbered several hundred thousand in 1809 when St. Patrick's was dedicated. In the period between 1820 and 1860 came 2 million more Irish. Between these two milestones transpired a huge amount of Irish history, most consequentially, The Great Irish Famine, The Know-Nothing Movement, and finally America's Civil War.
I frankly prefer the original edifice, which has the grace of being what feels to me more human-scale, more intimate, more feeling, more modest, affording a sense of both shelter and striving to those it nurtured, with no attempt to proclaim 'arrival' or grandiosity, better suiting my Irish sensibilities.
The 69th New York State Militia, nearly every soldier Irish and game, marched off to the Civil War from the original St. Patrick's. Visit the 'old' church today, and you can still hear the footsteps, the drums, the call to a greater destiny.
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"ONE GREAT IRISH SPOT" The family homestead still in use and productive to this very day!
One of my most magnificent or poignant 'Great Irish Spots would certainly have to be finding my 7 times Great-Grandfather's homestead where he settled in America after imigrating from Ireland. In 1755, Robert Steen of The Vow, Ireland, arrived in America and shortly thereafter settled upon a 100 acre farm near Chestnut Level, PA, where he raised his family and lived until his death around 1806. A member of the family had his Son fly him over Robert Steen's old homeplace. He took these pictures of the original farm as it appears today. The farmhouse is located at the northern (top) edge of the field shown below.
The two story stone house is believed to be over 200 years old and was probably built by (or for) Robert and his family.
His two daughters, who never married, lived at this place until their death about 1839. His two living sons, Samuel and Alexander, had moved west as young men and no descendants were able to return to settle the estate.
My spirit sailed when I learned that the home is still inhabited today and the land is still productive and meaningful to the family and community!
Danny, this must be a separate post, on your blog, to be eligible for the competition. It's a great piece and deserves its own spot on your blog, in any event.
My great-great grandfather, William J Myles (1820-1906), a printer, emigrated with his wife and children to NYC from Ireland in 1848. For more than sixty years he and his descendants lived within a block of St Pat's, and all through the 1860s lived at 273 Mott Street, directly adjacent to the graveyard. In 2000, when a Mass commemorating an 1863 Mass for the Irishmen killed in the Civil War was held at old St Pat's, I was in the church and had the feeling that I was in the same pew as my gggf was 137 years earlier.