St. Anthony of Padua Church has stood on Sullivan Street in the South Village since it was designed and built in 1886 by Arthur Crooks. St. Anthony’s is America’s earliest extant Catholic church established to minister to Italians and served the South Village’s growing immigrant Italian population at the turn of the 20th century. Not much has changed in the 82 years since the left photo was taken, but did you know that the same church building pictured above at the corner of Houston Street used to be sandwiched between other buildings on its block?
Although today Houston Street is a wide east-west thoroughfare, it spent most of its early life as an unremarkable narrow New York City cross-street. It wasn’t until the early 1930s when construction for the IND subway line (now the A, C, E, D, and F) cut a swath through downtown (via Sixth Avenue and then turning eastward on Houston Street), that the wider street we know today was created. You can read all about the widening of Houston Street in an earlier Off the Grid post.
The street widening resulted in the demolition of buildings abutting Houston Street on both the north and south sides of the street along the subway’s path. At Sullivan Street, the buildings to the north of St. Anthony’s were razed, and as a result, St. Anthony’s church building gained a prominent spot on the “new” corner of the block.
St. Anthony of Padua is one of several institutional buildings in the area that served the needs of new immigrants throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and is part of the South Village Historic District that GVSHP proposed to the city for landmarking. GVSHP spearheaded the successful effort to get much of the South Village Historic District officially landmarked, but the city has yet to act on portions of the proposed district that were not included. Learn how you can help preserve the entirety of this vibrant, historic community here.