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Church Of Our Lady Of EsperanzaThe Church of Our Lady of Esperanza stands on a knoll which was once known as Audubon Park. This eventually became Spanish Hill. The church was founded by Senora Dona Manuela de Laverrerie de Barril, wife of the Spanish Consul-General in New York.
One evening, Sara. De Barril invited railroad magnate Archer Milton Huntington (1870-1955) and his wife Anna Hyatt Huntington to dinner to discuss the possibility of having another church for the Spanish speaking peoples in New York City. Huntington was the founder of the Hispanic Society of America on May 18, 1904. A few months later she had died never seeing her dreams fulfilled. Construction for the church started in 1909 and was completed two years later. It was designed by Archer Huntington's cousin, Charles.
Within the church's original design the parishioners entered the building through an Ionic portico which could be approached by a flight of stairs which ascended from east to west on 156th Street. The church has a lamp donated by King Alfonso XIII of Spain in honor of the opening and consecration of the church.
The first pastor was Father Adrian Buisson who had been Pastor of the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe located at 229 West 14th Street. He had remained at the new church for 40 years and retired in 1952 at the age of 90. Father Francis Soutberg was appointed Pastor until 1955 when Father Bernard Guillett assumed the position. Presently the Reverend Monsignor Peter O'Donnell is the Pastor of Esperanza.
With the increasing amount of parishioners attending services a decision to enlarge the size of the building. An extension was added to the recessed front of the building. This was done in 1924 and the remodeling was designed by Lawrence G. White, son of Stanford White, and a partner in the firm of McKim, Meade and White.
The added vestibule accommodated a change of levels internally and brought the facade of the church to the lot line. A rectory was provided over the extension. This renovation reflected a crucial change in the architectural strategy put forth by Charles Huntington's original design of the church.
Even though Our Lady of Esperanza shares the same site as the Audubon Terrace Museum Complex it is a separate entity unto itself. The Complex was designated a Historic District by the Landmarks Preservation Commission on January 9, 1979.
Esperanza is involved with other community groups and churches to reach out to the citizens of Northern Manhattan. One of these efforts is Feed the Children where these groups including Esperanza help to distribute food and other necessities to the needy children and families of the area.
The church which is located at 624 West 156th Street For further information on the church and its activities call (212) 283-4340. For more information on the New York Archdiocese of the Catholic Church on the internet www.ny-archdiocese.org.
by James Renner, Historian for Northern Manhattan. For more information on Washington Heights/inwood, visit James Renner's site at http://www.hhoc.org/hist/