Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dinner at Delmonico’s 26th Street and Fifth Avenue – “Tony Pastor” Father Thomas Ducey of St. Leo’s New York

Delmonico's Restaurant - SW Corner Fifth Avenue at 26th Street NYC (1876-1899)
(Public Domain - United States)

...How a man made his money was no concern of “Del's”; he was welcome so long as his behavior was correct and the “solid” element raised no objection.  Hummel was well-mannered; and even the stalwarts of the Tenderloin police, unchoosey as to the sources of the incomes that were much larger than their salaries, took their ease in off hours with the dudes and the dandies, the Cuban patriots and prima donnas, the lovely women and lonely old maids who nightly gathered there. Nor was the unction of religion withheld from the well-fed throng.

A patron of imperishable benignity was the Reverend Thomas J. Ducey. In addition to fulfilling parish duties, Father Ducey occuped the position of virtual domestic chaplain to the Delmonico family.  His mother had been housekeeper for James T. Brady, the celebrated forensic orator of the mid-century whose name had been all but synonymous with the Chambers Street Delmonico's. This early association had given Ducey a tenuous connection with the world of wealth and as a priest he had devoted himself to the spiritual welfare of that class. Men and women plentifully blessed with the goods of this earth are surely entitled to the consolations of religion as much as the poor; indeed, if Holy Writ be trustworthy they may need those consolations more.  To them Father Ducey extended the blessings of church and ceremonial in the style to which they were accustomed.

In 1880 Father Ducey was enabled to build his own church - St. Leo's in East Twenty-eighth Street - mainly with the assistance of two intimate friends Lorenzo and Charles Delmonico.  St. Leo's was a small church and select; the congregation was drawn from the well-to-do who lived in the neighborhood. Father Ducey like a London monsignor of the same period was sometimes lightly termed the “apostle to the genteel”, yet he was as compatible with the poorest suppliant as with the proudest millionaire. He solicited the welfare of his flock on weekdays as well as Sundays dined where they dined (at Delmonico's) and was a constant reminder of their hopes of heaven in the banquet hall as in the sacristy. The dinner banquet hall sacristy hour was his vespers, and it was said that the text Father Ducey elucidated with the profoundest penetration came from the Gospel according to St. Matthew chapter 11, verse 19: “The Son of man came eating and drinking.”

At times the diocesan authorities wondered about Father Ducey; he was considered erratic; they certainly looked askance at some of the jokes the good Ducey was inspiring. Example: “Why is St Leo's like a certain theater on Fourteenth Street? Answer: “Because it has a tony pastor.”(*)

Father Ducey pursued what is known as “the even tenor of his ways”- even while winding his way back to the rectory from Delmonico's - and might have winningly invoked the sanction of the concluding sentence of the above-cited Scriptural verse: “But wisdom is justified of her children.”

(*) Tony Pastor 


Artist Studios – aka Y.M.C.A. Building 1869-1903 – 52 E 23rd Street – 23rd Street and Fourth (Park S.) Ave – James Renwick Jr. Architect

Y.M.C.A. - 52 East 23rd Street - 23rd Street and Fourth Avenue NYC
James Renwick Jr. - Architect
(public domain)

The first built for the YMCA purpose building in the United States in New York City, the “Christian Clubhouse”, was located at east 23rd Street, SE corner, and then Fourth (Park) Ave and finished in 1869.

Built across from the National Academy of Design on the NW Corner of 23rd Street and present day Park Avenue South, the YMCA building had 40 artist studios for rent on the top two floors, 4th and 5th floors.  Rent from the studios subsidized the mission of the "Y" as a Christian clubhouse with Library, Reading Room, lounges, classrooms, lecture rooms, large Auditorium and Gymnasium in the basement. Also some store fronts for rent on the NE corner frontage.

That along the timeline some of the artists who rented space at "52 E. 23rd Street" NYC were:

Alexander Helwig Wyant (who also died there in his studio)

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