Historical Points

A few of the many important historical points regarding the Old Cathedral and its connection to Catholic life, the City of New York and the nation are:

  • First cathedral church for the Diocese of New York (created 1808 by Pope Pius VII), second Catholic church in Manhattan, and third Catholic church in all of New York State
  • Designed by the same architect who designed New York City Hall, Joseph Francois Mangin
  • Largest Catholic church in the United States when completed in 1815
  • Sufficiently in rural location in New York City then that a fox was caught in the churchyard not long after completion
  • Campus complex was the site of the first classical school for boys in New York, the New York Literary Institution, founded by Anthony Kohlmann, S.J., in 1808
  • 32 Prince Street, the former St. Patrick’s School, was the site (1817) of the first mission in New York of the Sisters of Charity, founded by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first United States-born saint; site of NYC’s oldest existing Catholic grammar school (circa 1826)
  • Dominick Lynch, a member of The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick in the City of New York, is buried in the crypt beneath the Old Cathedral. Lynch was a founding Trustee of St. Peter’s Church and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, as was Andrew Morris, the first Roman Catholic to be elected to public office in the City and State of New York. Morris is buried in the Cathedral’s Cemetery
  • Rev. Richard Bulger in 1820 became the first priest ordained in New York City
  • Graveyard underwent its final expansion to its present size in August 1824. Prayers were offered in the Irish Gaelic language by Rev. Michael O’Gorman at a public Vespers ceremony in the graveyard
  • Revs. Bulger and O’Gorman die in November 1824 within a week of each other of illnesses contracted while performing their parochial duties to the ill and infirmed of the Parish. John Connolly, the first resident Bishop of the Diocese, dies the following January, after contracting an illness while ministering to Bulger and O’Gorman, his former roommates and indispensible assistants.
  • The Garcia Italian Opera Company, brought to New York by Dominick Lynch Jr., performed a benefit concert for the Orphan Asylum in 1826, one of the earliest opera performances in the United States
  • Second co-ed free school in New York (after St. Peter’s), laying the roots for the public school and, later, the parochial school systems
  • The Board of Trustees in 1834 “RESOLVED that a wall shall be built around the Cathedral and churchyard [to protect both the graveyard and the church from rioters bent on destruction].”
  • St. John Neumann, the first United States Bishop to be canonized, was ordained at the Old Cathedral by Bishop Dubois in 1836
  • A school building constructed in the campus in 1837 was the first building designed and built as a Catholic school in the city (previous schools having used church basements or repurposed buildings), on site later occupied by the school run by the Christian Brothers
  • Requiem mass for Lorenzo Da Ponte, librettist of Mozart and the first Professor of Italian Literature and Language at Columbia University, took place in 1838 at the Cathedral
  • John Hughes was created Bishop of Basileopolis in 1838, the first episcopal ordination in New York
  • Hughes was a pioneer, during the waves of Catholic immigration in the 1840s, in establishing Roman Catholic social outreach organizations, helping to establish the tradition of charitable organizations in the U.S.
  • Anti-Catholic rioting in 1844 poses a grave physical threat to the church, which Bishop John Hughes meets with the assistance of armed Irish organizations like the Ancient Order of Hibernians (whose headquarters were adjacent to the campus at 42 Prince Street)
  • Pope Pius IX created the Archdiocese of New York in 1850, elevating John Hughes to the status of Archbishop
  • The Archdiocese of New York became the spiritual hub for maintaining total allegiance to the Holy See that came to characterize the U.S. episcopacy, largely due to the leadership of Bishop Hughes
  • Venerable Pierre Toussaint, Haitian slave-born Catholic philanthropist, dies in 1853 and was buried in the churchyard at SPOC (his remains are transferred in 1990 to the “new” Cathedral of St. Patrick)
  • Isaac Hecker founded the Paulist Fathers in 1858; he was an adult convert to Roman Catholicism, and had been baptized by then Bishop John McCloskey in 1844 at the Old Cathedral
  • Blessing of the colors of the “Fighting” 69th Regiment by Archbishop Hughes before the regiment set off for active duty in the Civil War, April 23, 1861; this “Irish Brigade” unit, lead by Colonel Michael Corcoran, Thomas Francis Meagher and former Congressman, U.S. Attorney and Abolitionist, Captain John McKeon – and whose ranks were filled with many Old Cathedral parishioners, distinguished itself during the Civil War for its unsurpassed valor and heroism at the Battle of Bull Run, among many other battles
  • Funeral and burial at the Old Cathedral of Bishop “Dagger John” Hughes in January, 1864 attracted thousands, including many prominent New York City and New York State figures (his remains are transferred later to the “new” Cathedral of St. Patrick)
  • Fire destroyed the interior of the Old Cathedral on October 6, 1866; the Old Cathedral is rebuilt and re-opened on St. Patrick’s Day in 1868
  • John Cardinal McCloskey was installed as the first American cardinal, April, 1875; he received his cardinal’s hat in the parlor of the rectory, 263 Mulberry St. (and, then again, in second ceremony in the Old Cathedral across the street)
  • St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral was supplanted as the seat of the Archdiocese of New York by the “new” Cathedral of St. Patrick, May 25, 1879
  • The debt of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral was finally paid off, and the church was consecrated, March 17, 1885
  • Brig. Gen. Thomas Eckert, personal friend and confidant of President Lincoln, was buried in an elaborate vault in the crypt beneath the Old Cathedral in 1910
  • Funeral of “Big Tim” Sullivan, famed Tammany Hall politician, attracted 25,000 to the streets surrounding the Old Cathedral, 1913
  • Philanthropist Annie Leary, the first Papal Countess, died in 1919 and is buried at the Old Cathedral
  • St. Michael’s Russian Catholic Church is established in 1936 in the Old Chancery building; this is the first chapel to serve the Russian Catholic expatriate community in New York which fled the Russian Revolution
  • The Old Cathedral and associated buildings are among the first sites to be designated as New York City landmarks (1966)
  • Campus complex listed on the National Register of Historic Places, 1977
  • The Old Cathedral was designated a Basilica by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on March 17, 2010