Image of Old Saint Patrick's Cathedral
The corner stone of Old St. Patrick's, on 263 Mulberry Street in Soho, was laid on June 8, 1809. The cathedral was dedicated on May 14, 1815, and served as the seat of New York City's diocese until 1879.
Beneath the church lies a catacomb of mortuary vaults, opened only once a year, the resting place of many former St. Patrick's Cathedral bishops and Tammany Hall politicians. Buried underneath the front entrance way is Bishop John DuBois.
He was forced to leave France by the French Revolution in May, 1791, and fled in disguise to America. He opened a school on the mountain in Emmittsburg, Maryland, founding the present Mt. St. Mary's College. Father DuBois became bishop in 1825, and served until 1839, passing away at the age of 84 in 1842.
And if you ever want to talk over the early days of Catholcism, stop by. His spirit is said to remain in the church, and he's been spotted often by visitors to the Cathedral. But he's one-upped in rank by an almost-saintly spook.
Outside is a cemetery containing many old graves and tombstones, hidden from Mulberry Street view by a tall brick wall built in the 1800's to ward off rock-throwing Protestants during New York's gang wars. Its most famous guest was Pierre Toussaint, a Black New Yorker, born a slave in Haiti, and originally buried there, although he now rests at the new St. Patrick's.
In 1995, then Archbishop of New York, John Cardinal O’Connor, ordered his remains to the crypt for the archbishops of New York that lie beneath the main altar of the cathedral. Toussaint is the only layman in their company.
Toussaint attended daily Mass at 6 a.m. for 60 years while operating a high-class hairdressing salon after being freed as a slave. He founded, with St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, one of New York City's first orphanages, and helped raise funds for the city's first cathedral in the 19th century - Old St. Patricks.
Oh, and the Church has beatified him after accepting a miracle, one step from being declared a saint. His intercession cured a five-year-old little Irish boy of advanced scoliosis, with spinal X-Rays as the proof. Now he's Blessed Pierre Toussaint.
And though his bones were transplanted - the Church actually had his body exhumed in 1990 as part of the sainthood process - he never left his his old stomping grounds. Toussaint's spook is regularly sighted roaming the Old St. Patrick's cemetery, on the grounds he helped to build.
Who sez all ghosts are evil?
BTW, Old St. Patrick's is the starting point for Marilyn Stoat's "Street Smarts" tour called "Soho Ghosts." So if you're ever curious...