Our Lady of Vilnius is a church in limbo.

Built in 1910 in a yellow brick Gothic Revival style, it sits on a now-closed section of Broome Street between Varick and Hudson, just north of the always-jammed Manhattan entrance of the Holland tunnel. When it was constructed, Broome Street was no doubt a quiet residential side street, but in the mid-1920s when the tunnel was built, the space was transformed into an exhaust-belching, horn-honking maelstrom. In the 1910s, Lithuanian Catholics made up a sizable portion of the congregation — they had immigrated to NYC to work the docks — and so the church was named for the capital of that Eastern European country that for several decades was a part of the USSR.

In the 1990s the church building became unstable,no doubt from the decades of thundering traffic across the street, and at length services had to be held in the basement. Cardinal Edward Egan, chief of the NY Archdiocese, finally closed the church in February 2007, and the building had a date with the wreckers in 2008, but lawsuits have held them at bay thus far. It’s a long shot, but some churches, like St. Brigid in the East Village, have gotten a reprieve.

Broome Street is fairly torn up along this stretch, with some remaining Belgian block.



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4 Responses to OUR LADY OF VILNIUS, SoHo

  1. Dan S. says:

    Is the street closed? Or is it simply a “dead end”? The parking garage seen in the photo just right of the church would certainly suggest that it is not entirely closed, or at least that it recently wasn’t. Anyway, I hope the church building can be saved.

  2. Bill says:

    The church and its three tenement house neighbors, lit up at night, grace the cover of Yo La Tengo’s album I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One.

  3. Bruce says:

    I photographed the church doors a few years ago.


  4. A scaffold was placed in the sanctuary in 2004 to monitor a condition that involved the joists not articulating correctly in the roof. Mass was held in the basement until February 26, 2007, when the Archdiocese abruptly locked the church while the pastor was uptown meeting with Cardinal Egan. See NY Post – Cardinal SinSubsequent inspections by the DOB in response to complaints by a neighbor did not detect any instability in the building. The roof, ostensibly the reason that the sanctuary was taken out of commission, is still intact after 10 years of neglect and one of the worst winters in history; a winter that burdened this flat roof with a load of ice, snow and water that caused many roof collapses in the tristate.

    Accuracy, truth and causality do not converge in the narrative that the archdiocese crafted to explain the closure of this beloved church and parish.

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