The original St. Francis Church which had served so well for over 50 years was torn down. The demolition work on one of New York’s oldest midtown landmarks began on May 27, 1891 and the cornerstone of the new edifice was laid on September 27, 1891 by Archbishop Michael Corrigan. Every German Catholic Society was represented. Many priests were present, including the former pastor, Fr. Eugene Dikovich.
Bishop Winand Wigger of Newark, NJ also attended with mixed emotions. He had been born in a small house directly opposite St. Francis Church, on the site occupied by the present Greeley Arcade at 134 West 31st Street. The demolished church had been the church of his childhood, and his brother had long served as a trustee of St. Francis parish.
A year later the new church was ready for dedication, and the solemnities were set for July 17, 1892. On that glorious Sunday morning, Archbishop Corrigan blessed the edifice and consecrated the three altars, after which Bishop Leo Haid, O.S.B., Vicar Apostolic of North Carolina and Praeses of the American Cassinese Congregation of the Benedictines, celebrated a Solemn Pontifical Mass. Bishop Wigger, a former altar boy of St. Francis parish, preached the homily and after reviewing the history of the parish, exhorted the people to faithfully support the parish and all its wonderful good works.
This series of articles on the history of our parish is adapted from the writings of Fr. Flavian Walsh, O.F.M., Pastor from 1985-87.