Friday, July 8, 2016

GARDEN OASIS at St. John Baptist Church Manhattan W. 30th Street: By Polly Guerin

 Friday, July 15, 2016
Left: The Garden Welcome at St. John the Baptist
Like many less trodden side streets in Manhattan West 30th Street, for quite sometime, rested on its distant past where the fur industry once flourished and the bells of St. John the Baptist Church told the story of the passing workers as they headed for Pennsylvania Station.
     One might say "Plant it and they will come!" That is just what St. John the Baptist created.  Located in Manhattan at 211 West 30th Street just off Seventh Avenue, St. John the Baptist remains a sanctuary today for a new generation of pedestrians and travelers with inviting outdoor gardens. The side steps at the front of the church have been reclaimed with the installation of two small garden retreats and benches on either side of the church's entrance steps for peaceful repose, prayer or meditation. 
Left: The Garden Welcome at St. John the Baptist
     One side garden has a statue of the Blessed Mary, Lady of Fatima and on the other side St. Anthony of Padua holds the infant child Jesus. It is such a lovely oasis in the bustling city and each week as I walk along on 30th Street I have more reason than before to take some extra time to sit in one of the gardens. There in peaceful refrain I claim my gratitude for the team at St. John the Baptist who opened up the side gates and created such an inviting place.
      Without any official announcement, the gardens are attracting a diverse audience. The other day, when I passed by the church, I found three teenagers taking restful repose as their parents, obviously on a tourist visit, were on their cell phone. Then, just recently,  two young men in summer attire sat opposite each other on the white wrought iron benches surrounded by shrubbery, small trees and colorful flowers in large ceramic vases.; all provided by Lifesource Irrigation Corporation at 214 W. 30th. Street.   
       I was told by Brother Sal at St. John the Baptist that it was a synergistic relationship; the church provided space in their parking lot for Lifesource Irrigation's storage and Lifesource provided the lush garden foliage, plants and fragrant flowers. Lifesource's Declan Keane said, "The garden is an area that I especially like taking care of.  Here at Lifesource, similar to the garden at St. John the Baptist Church we have grown from humble beginnings in our up-and-coming community and continue to serve our clients on a daily basis." Incidentally, in the spirit of mutual cooperation, Lifesource provided the images for this feature.
St. John the Baptist Before the Gardens
HISTORICAL SOUPCON   St. John the Baptist has been a mainstay in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan through the Civil War, World War I and II, Vietnam and 911, a veritable survivor from Old New York's history. To the church's rear is the Capuchin Monastery of St. John the Baptist, located at 210 West 31st Street, across from Pennsylvania Station and Madison Square Garden. 
     It is interesting to note that West 30th street is becoming an upscale "in" destination with a chic restaurant nearer to eighth avenue and continues its place as a music mecca including the NYC Guitar School, Gotham Guitar Works and other music and recording companies.
      The parish was established in 1840 as the second parish to serve German Catholics in New York City and was dedicated on September 20 1840.  The present French Gothic edifice was consecrated on June 20, 1872 to the designs of the prolific ecclesiastical architect Napoleon LeBrun. The church originally accommodated l, 200 people.  
      In preparation for the church's 125th anniversary, it underwent a complete renovation. The church was rededicated on June 24, 1996. Then sadly fire struck; on January 1997 the church's organ and choir gallery as well as a number of statues and irreplaceable stained glass windows were destroyed. Through generous donations and the combined support of its parishioners the church recovered its former glory and the bells continue to toll glad tidings each day.
      St. John the Baptist was rededicated November 7, 1998 and is the site of the Padre Pio shrine. Today leadership of the church and its congregation are led by the newly appointed pastor Thomas Franks.  For further information:
      Dear Readers: PollyTalk says, "Take a side trip to a heavenly garden where the stress of the city melts away with calm and contemplation. I always welcomes fan mail, please email your comments to 

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