St. Augustine's Church (Bronx, New York)

The Church of St. Augustine
General information
Architectural style Baroque Revival
Renaissance Revival
Town or city Morrisania, The Bronx, New York City
Country United States of America
Construction started 1906 (for school)[1]
Completed 1850 (for timber church)
1858 (for brick church)
1894 (for third and present church);[2][3]
1904 (for school)[2][3]
Cost $50,000 (for 1906 school)[1]
Technical details
Structural system Brick masonry with terra-cotta trim (for churches and school)[1]
Design and construction
Client Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York
Architect Louis H. Giele (for 1894 church)[2]
J. O'Connor (for 1906 school)[1]

The Church of St. Augustine is a Roman Catholic parish church under the authority of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, located at 1183 Franklin Avenue between East 167th Street and East 168th Street in the Morrisania neighborhood of The Bronx, New York City.



The church was built 1894 to the designs of architect Louis H. Giele with Baroque Revival and Renaissance Revival design elements.[2] It was dedicated in 1895 by the Archbishop of New York.[4] The parochial school nearby was completed in 1904.[3] The AIA Guide to New York City (2010) describes the architecture as "Renaissance and Baroque elements combine in this somber but imposing facade. The parish school across the street to the north is distinguished by glazed blue and white terra-cotta sculpture set into the tympanum of its Classical pediment."[2] Plans were filed by owner the Augustine Society of Tompkinsville, Staten Island, in April 1906 for a site on the southeast of Andrew Avenue, 200 feet south of Fordham Road. The structure would be a two-storey brick school, 54x100 feet, to the designs by architect J. O'Connor for $50,000.[1] The church developed leaks and was deemed unsafe in the summer of 2009 with worship service continuing in the auditorium of St. Augustine's Parochial School.[5] Funds from the school have been helping pay the church building's upkeep.[5] The Rev. Thomas Fenlon, the present pastor of the church, has been seeking a developer to demolish St. Augustine’s Church and build affordable housing on the site, constructing a new smaller church next door.[5]

Parish history

The parish was canonically established in 1849 as the Bronx began attracting German and Irish residents. The first mass was held in a private residence on Boston Road.[6] The Morrisania site for the present church on the northeast corner of Franklin Avenue and Jefferson Street was purchased in 1850 with a small wooden church immediately being erected. This in turn was replaced in 1858 by one of brick construction and dedicated Archbishop John Hughes.[4] In 1892, the parish address was at 867 Jefferson Street.[7] That structure was destroyed in 1894 during a fire and the present structure was dedicated in 1895.[4]

As the Bronx grew in the early Twentieth Century with Irish, German, and Italian immigrants from the Lower East Side, which swelled the congregation.[6] To serve this enlarged parish, a parochial school (see below) was established in 1906.[1][6]

Ongoing construction with the parish school and significant debt accumulated towards the management of the church necessitated the parish to establish the Diamond Jubilee Campaign,[6] which although successful proved inadequate "to cope with the poor structural condition of the church" during the 1930s and 1940s.[8] The post-World War II white flight from Morrisania and the South Bronx in general and the community's replacement with many African Americans from Harlem led to the diminished congregation becoming overwhelmingly African American by the late 1950s. By the late 1960s, the parish was reduced by a third again as drug-related issues affected the neighborhood.[8]

By the early 1970s, parish leaders, including the Rev. Robert Jeffers, began to strategize on how to improve the community.[8] During that decade, a group of Franciscans began administering specifically "to children, elderly, and anyone else in need." St. Augustine’s School of the Arts was established in 1979 and "continues to provide an arts-based curriculum to children located in the Morrisania community." The church also established "the Alpha Housing Coalition, which provided assistance to tenants located in the Morrisania community."[8]


St. Augustine's holds weekly masses in three languages.[5] It sponsors many community programs, which include a food pantry, a men’s society, Alcoholics Anonymous, and youth dances. The church has a group of Franciscans specifically administering "to children, elderly, and anyone else in need."[8] St. Augustine’s School of the Arts was established in 1979 to provide neighborhood youth an arts-based curriculum. The church established the Alpha Housing Coalition to provide assistance to neighborhood tenants and residents. Since the mid 1980s, the church has been a member of the SHARE (Self-Help and Resource Exchange) Program, which provides families with food packages in exchange for community service.[9] The church was a founding member in the 1987 establishment of South Bronx Churches (SBC), an organization that provides area residents with housing and other services. As of December 2010, Sister Dorothy Hall runs the food pantry.[5]

St. Augustine's School

St. Augustine's School is located at 1176 Franklin Avenue on the east side between East 167th Street and East 168th Street. The structure was completed in 1904.[2][3] However, a New York Times article indicates the building permit was only filed in 1906, which would agree with the school's own history of its founding (alternatively different buildings might be in question).[1] The parish history, however dates the parochial school's establishment to 1906. The original building was designed for 1200 students but a new schoolhouse was constructed on Fulton Avenue in 1913 to accommodate greater numbers.[6] It was reported in December 2010, that St. Augustine School was "one of six Bronx parochial schools facing closure by the New York Archdiocese because of dwindling enrollment and mounting deficits."[5] The school presently doubles as the place of worship since the church building was deemed unsafe.[5] "St. Augustine enrolled only 170 students this fall, down from 252 in 2008, with Brady blaming the bad economy and a tuition hike ordered by the Archdiocese. The school's families earn just an average of $16,000 per year, he said, but 100% of its students graduate on time and 98% go to college....The school is 10% Muslim."[5] Efforts to keep the school opened included teachers agreeing to cut their salaries by 10% and the school launching a registration drive, which enrolled "45 new students in less than two weeks."[5] Tuition is 3% of their annual family income.[5] Archbishop Timothy Dolan visited the church in August 2010 and would make his decision on the closings in early 2011.[5] The school was among 27 closed by Archbishop Dolan in the Roman Catholic New York Archdiocese on 11 January 2011.[10][11][12]

External links


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "IN THE REAL ESTATE FIELD.; Deal for Front Street Property -- Upper Eighth Avenue Corner Sold -- Successful Auction Offerings of Bronx Property. -- The Building Department: List of Plans Filled for a New Structure in Manhattan and Bronx", New York Times, April 18, 1906, ("...John N. Golding has sold for Elizabeth H. Jaques to John Bittner 1 Front Street, adjoining the corner of Whitehall Street, 33.5 by 110 by 39.5 by 110. The property connects at the rear with the Eastern Hotel, at Whitehall and South Streets, of which Mr. Bittner is proprietor, and will probably be improved with an addition to that structure....")
  2. ^ a b c d e f Norval White, Elliot Willensky with Fran Leadon, AIA Guide to New York City Fifth Ed. American Institute of Architects New York Chapter Series. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), p.833. ISBN 9780195383867.
  3. ^ a b c d Norval White and Elliot Willensky, AIA Guide to New York City, rev. ed., (New York: Collier Books, 1978), p.317.
  4. ^ a b c "Anniversary Journal of St. Augustine’s". 1974. Retrieved 7 February 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Daniel Beekman, "New York Archdiocese may close Bronx parochial school St. Augustine School," New York Daily News, 2 December 2010 (Accessed 7 February 2011)
  6. ^ a b c d e "Our Hundredth Anniversary – St. Augustine’s Parish". 1949. Retrieved 7 February 2011. 
  7. ^ The World Almanac 1892 and Book of Facts (New York: Press Publishing, 1892), p.390.
  8. ^ a b c d e Peter Honerkamp, “Inner-City Parishes – St Augustine, New York,” Impact! (October–November 1979).
  9. ^ Claudia McDonnell, “Hope Comes to the Inner City,” St. Anthony Messenger (1986): 15-20.
  10. ^ Alice McQuillan, "New York Archdiocese to Close 27 Schools," NBC New York, 11 January 2011 (Accessed 7 February 2011)
  11. ^ Archdiocese of New York, "RECONFIGURATION COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING “AT-RISK” SCHOOLS ACCEPTED BY ARCHDIOCESE OF NEW YORK," Official Press Release, 11 January 2011 (Accessed 7 February 2011)
  12. ^ Bronx Catholic Blog (Accessed 7 February 2011)

Coordinates: 40°49′45″N 73°54′18″W / 40.82917°N 73.905°W / 40.82917; -73.905

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