Saving Our Lady of Guadalupe, New York’s First Spanish Church
This weekend, the New York Times ran an extensive piece on the endangered Our Lady of Guadalupe Church at 229 West 14th Street, its history, and the effort being led by Village Preservation to save it — read it here. Our Lady of Guadalupe, founded in 1902 and located in two former brownstone mansions once owned by the prominent Delmonico family, is the very first church established in the New York Archdiocese for a Spanish-speaking congregation. Originally serving a largely Spanish immigrant community, the church from the beginning also served congregants from across Latin America, which went on to form the bulk of its congregation over the years. A tiny minority of New Yorkers when the church was founded, Hispanic/Latinx residents now make up nearly 30% of our city’s population.
The church also played a pivotal role in the spiritual transformation of Villager Dorothy Day. In 2003 the church was moved into the much larger St. Bernard’s at 328 West 14th Street, leaving the original building largely empty. Earlier this year, the Archdiocese issued a decree of relegation for the former Our Lady of Guadalupe, leaving the fate of the original church building very much in doubt.
Village Preservation has proposed the historic site for landmark designation, extensively documenting its history and significance, and pointing out the paucity of designated landmarks in New York City honoring Hispanic and Latinx history, which is particularly striking in relation to the city’s stated “Equity Framework” for landmark designations. We’ve collected a broad array of support for designation from elected officials, preservationists, and scholars of Hispanic and Latinx history and culture. However, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission is yet to take a position on the proposed landmark designation, even as the fate of the endangered building could be sealed at any moment.