Wednesday, April 7, 2010

☞ WALK: The Friary in West Harlem

The Saint Joseph Friary is one of the more interesting buildings to be seen in Hamilton Heights while walking along West 142nd Street, between Broadway and Hamilton Place. Set up over two decades ago, the Friary is the home of Franciscan monks who have eschewed material things and live a life of "chastity, poverty and obedience." They also wear the traditional robes and sport the long beards that one would imagine them to. Another familiar characteristic can also be found in the fact that the friars also do a lot of charity work for the neighborhood and hold weekly free meal events for those in need. Check out the slide show from the New York Times in 2007 to see what goes on inside hallways of the Friary: LINK. The Friary is located at 523 West 142nd Street and can be reached by taking the 1 train to 145th Street. All photos by Ulysses


  1. This Friary has been in this location for more than 20 years. In the late 60's I had a boyfriend who lived on the next block;and it had been in existence before that time.

    I'll never forget one sunny summer afternoon, walking up this block toward Hamilton Place, I saw a young monk with his robes slightly hitched up, sandals on his feet and ropebelt swinging. He was welding a stickball bat and had hit a homerun!

    The kids were cheering,and his face looked like pure joy. I was struck by his exuberance and the look of open carefree delight in his playing of that simple street game.

    I will never forgetit. It is these moments of beauty that are some of my rememberances of Harlem life.


    1. Wow, what a memory! A homerun stickball-style by an Augustinian monk!

  2. BTW,
    The 'Nuestra Madre' is a recent addition as it was not present in my past. It appears to be a nod to the most recent Hispanic immigrants to the neighborhood,the Mexicans.

    In the past the neighborhood had a more eclectic group of immigrants along with Hispanic and African-Americans.

    Gradually the these two groups became the dominant presence.
    At the present time, there must be a strong activistic Mexican presence as in my time the Puerto Ricans and Cubans who were the dominating Hispanic groups of the '60's and 70's in this area did not have such a symbol of their Catholicism so prominantly placed.

    This is a testament to the responsiveness and sensitivity of the Friary to the needs of the community.

  3. Thank you Sissy for the helping us see all the history here. It is truly a gift to hear the stories from those who remember the changing neighborhood over the decades!

  4. In 1892 the Cenacle Sisters from France moved into the building. In 1916 it was sold to the Felician Sisters. At some point it was a Cursillo retreat center, run by the Augustinian Fathers who lived next door at 521. We Franciscan Friars of the Renewal ( moved in the summer of 1996.

    1. Thanks so much for more of its history!