Inwood’s Church of the Good Shepherd

Church of the Good Shepherd, Inwood, NYC.

On May 1, 1911 Reverend Patrick J. Hayes of the Archdiocese of New York granted formal approval for a new parish, to be located on the northernmost tip of Manhattan.

The announcement would change the lives, and test the metal, of the two Paulist fathers assigned to the task.

After being officially appointed Pastor of the new flock, Father Thomas A. Daly and his assistant, Father James Towey, scoured the neighborhood for a land deal, they hoped, would accommodate an ever-growing congregation.

Until a suitable location could be found, the small but steadfast flock of 150 parishioners found a temporary home in a small chapel located on the current site of the Christie Field House at Baker Field.

On January 1, 1912, inside the old Christian Brothers’ chapel, named “Philip’s Villa,” 150 Catholic pioneers held their first Mass along the banks of the Spuyten Duyvil.  The Villa would serve as the parish church until a suitable structure could be built.

After and intense search, which included the securing of financing for the project, Father Daly purchased a large plot of land on Broadway and Isham Street for the sum of  $115,000.

Isham Park Celebration reprint from 75th Good Shepherd anniversary program.

But his announcement would have to wait.

On September 28, 1912, nearly one thousand New Yorkers gathered on a hilltop just north of Isham Street for another historic announcement—the gift of Isham Park to the City of New York.

The day was a magnificent occasion.  It marked the first time in 136 years that private citizens, Mrs. Julia Isham Taylor and Miss Flora E. Isham, had donated any significant parkland to the city.

New York Tribune, September 29. 1912.

In the midst of a grand party, held in the former Isham family mansion, the time felt right for the Paulist fathers to share their glorious news—news that that would shape Inwood to this present day.

After a series of folk dances and speeches by Parks Commissioner Charles B. Stover and local dignitaries, including local historian Reginald Pelham Bolton, Reverend John J. Hughes took the podium.

Hughes, the national father superior of the Paulist Fathers, announced that his order, after a careful search, had secured a permanent home a stone’s throw south of the newly formed park.

With much excitement, Hughes described his plan for the construction of a church, school and monastery to serve the growing urban community, which, just years earlier, had been sparsely populated farmland.

Hughes told a spellbound audience that, within weeks, work would commence on a temporary wooden church, capable of seating some one thousand parishioners.

The church, he announced, would be named the Church of the Good Shepherd.

Good Shepherd in 1925.
The Herald Statesman, July 25, 1935

Thus it was, on the same late summer afternoon, the neighborhood gained not only a park, but also a church, which would together bind the landscape and religious fabric of Inwood for generations to come.

Not long after the celebration, work began on the original white A-framed wooden country church that would serve as home until a more permanent structure could be completed.

Nearly two decades later it became clear that Inwood the time for expansion had arrived.  Two subway lines had led to the development of apartment buildings to house an ever growing, and ever more urban, population.  The church that had served the community so well had become too cramped to contain the growing Catholic, heavily Irish, community that had fled the tenement life of downtown Manhattan.

Source: Good Shepherd’s 75th anniversary program.

By the early 1930’s the quaint country church was moved west, across Cooper Street so congregants would have a place to worship as workers broke ground on the church we know today.

Good Shepherd Band in 1946 (note old church in the background)

Commissioned in 1935 and designed by architect Paul Monaghan the church is Romanesque in style.  Spectacular to behold from the outside, with its granite façade, terra cotta tile roof and three large stained glass windows overlooking a stepped porch leading to Broadway, the church the inside is a work of divine inspiration.  Good Shepherd’s cavern-like interior is capable of seating some 1,000 people.

Source: Good Shepherd’s 75th anniversary program.

According to Good Shepherd’s website, “The walls are constructed of Fordham gneiss, which was most likely quarried to the north of Manhattan in the Bronx. It is accentuated by the use of horizontal bands of a contrasting color. The siting of the new church blocked views the rectory once had to the Harlem River; the large window openings now look out to the back of the church. During the 1930s, an elementary school and convent were constructed adjacent the site. Originally established to minister to Inwood’s Irish community, the Church of the Good Shepherd of today with the aid of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars, Province of St. Mary serve a largely Hispanic congregation. The church demonstrates a phase of growth for northern Manhattan and is a reminder of the physical presence of Inwood’s middle-income Irish Catholic population.”

Good Shepherd Firsts:

First Mass: January 1, 1912

First Baptism: Dorothy Emily Baird, 153 Vermilyea Avenue, born January 1, 1913, Baptized February 2, 1913, by Father Thomas A. Daly.

First Marriage: William Young to Terese Francis Hall, April 20, 1913.

First Spanish Mass: November, 1969.

Good Shepherd in 1958.
Good Shepherd in 1968, Courtesy Herb Maruska


Major work on the roof in 2015:

Good Shepherd roof replacement in 2015.
Good Shepherd roof replacement in 2015
Good Shepherd roof replacement in 2015.
Good Shepherd roof replacement in 2015.
Good Shepherd roof replacement in 2015.
Good Shepherd roof replacement in 2015.
Good Shepherd roof replacement in 2015.
Good Shepherd roof replacement in 2015.
Good Shepherd roof replacement in 2015.
Good Shepherd roof replacement in 2015.
Good Shepherd roof replacement in 2015.
Good Shepherd roof replacement in 2015.
Good Shepherd roof replacement in 2015.
Good Shepherd roof replacement in 2015.

Now it’s your turn.  I encourage everyone reading to submit their own photographs and memories of Good Shepherd and help flush out its history together.

Lost Inwood Amazon link


  1. Started 1st grade in 1943. Principal was Sister Jeanne who had been my mothers 6th grade teacher at St. Thomas in Harlem. Memories of mean little Sister David, tough Ms. Heinz, wonderful Sister Bernard,Pastor was Father Bergen. Rosalie McQuade from Park Terrace was a year ahead of me and was famous for playing the daughter “The Goldbergs TV show”. Nothing was better then the Good Shepherd dances . They had a live band the boys would stand all around while we girls hoped we would get asked to dance. I remember great dancers like Matty Devine, Nancy Doyle etc. we all learned great dances there and in Rockaway. Great Parish, great memories and some not so great.

  2. Seeing the photographs on the site brought back bittersweet memories. I attended GSS from 1969 to 1972 (5th to 8th grade) going on to Mother Cabrini High School after graduation. The quality of education was excellent and a few of my teachers devoted and memorable. On the downside, being only one of a handful of Latinos at the school I experienced the ugliness of bigotry from some of the students and surprisingly, from a few of the nuns on the faculty. Overall, however, I am grateful for the good.

  3. I made my First Communion in the old original wooden church in about 1932. We lived in 585 Isham St. directly across the street. When we were older, and the new church was built, we used to enter the side entrance and fill our water pistols from the Holy Water font!

  4. I lived at 610 Academy Street, entered Good Shepard Grammar School in 1948.. I have wonderful memories. my 1st grade teacher Mrs. Heinz, 5th Sr. Hilary(horrible teacher) 6th Sr Teresita(wonderful) 7th Sr. Patrice and 8th Sr. Arthur(great basketball player, veil flying), my friends on the block..Patty Sullivan, Noreen Cord, Bernadette Dunn, Denise Dwyer, Mary Hecht,(POST AVE) Barbara O’Hallorem.(VERMILYEA AVE) the dances in the auditorium, the CYO talent contest(won a few singing).. going outside for “recess”, I made all my Sacraments in Good Shepard, baptized in 1942, 1st Communion 1948, Confirmation 1952, graduated 1956, married in 1964. would love to hear from any of my classmates,

  5. A 1935 newspaper clipping reproduced on this website announcing “New Church Planned by Inwood Paulists” mentions the Pastor Arthur Miller. He was Rev Arthur Raymond Miller, CSP. Father Miller was born Dec 29, 1885 in London, Ontario, Canada and entered the Paulists in 1909. He was ordained a Catholic priest on June 6, 1914. In 1929 he was assigned to St Paul the Apostle Catholic Church on Columbus Ave & W 60th St, the Mother Church of the Paulists. The parish was established in 1858 and the new church was dedicated on January 25, 1885, In 1935 he was appointed as the fifth Pastor of Good Shepherd. It was under his direction that the new Good Shepherd Church was built. In 1940 he was appointed Pastor of St Paul the Apostle Catholic Church established by the Paulists in 1935 in Los Angeles where he died September 20, 1951.

  6. The first Pastor of Good Shepherd was Rev Thomas Augusine Daly, CSP, born in Co.Kerry, Ireland on July 23, 1864. He came to the US when he was 12. He was ordained a Catholic priest on June 9,1900. He served as pastor for 7 years. He died in New York on January 8, 1941. He is buried in the Paulists’ Mother Church St Paul the Apostle on Columbus Ave & W 60th St. His parochial assistant was Rev James Towey, born on April 7, 1882 in Santa Rosa South, California. He was ordained a Catholic priest on May 25, 1907. He left Good Shepherd in 1918 to serve as a military chaplain with the US Army during World War I. He then was assigned to various pastoral duties in Minneapolis & California. He died in San Francisco on February 1, 1953. He is buried in Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Colma, California.

  7. When I graduated from Good Shepherd School the Pastor was Rev Claude Joseph Collins, CSP. Father Collins was born in Gueydan, Lousiana on September 7, 1907. He was ordained a Catholic priest on February 12. 1936. He was assignd to St Paul the Apostle Catholic Church on Columbus Ave & 60th St for 2 years after ordination. He next served as a missionary in Africa until 1945 when he returned to the US. He was Pastor at Good Shepherd from 1955 to 1961. He died in Boston on October 6, 1979 and is buried in St Joseph Cemetery in West Roxbury, Masachusetts.

  8. My 8th grade teacher at Good Shepherd was Brother Gabriel Healy,FSC. He was born James Edward Healy in New York City on August 16, 1929. He entered the Christian Brothers Juniorate in 1943, the Novitiate in 1946, receiving the religious name Brother Andrian Gabriel, and pronounced his Perpetual Vows in 1954. He only spent one year 1957-1958 teaching at GSS. He was one tough Mick but I liked him. He put up with no no nosense. One day three of the class wisguys came back together late from lunch. He could smell tobacco on their breathes and did not react genteely. Another day he got made at someone in class and threw an eraser at him. The eraser went out the open window on the NW corner of the 3rd floor and landed flush on Isham Street. The chalk outline of the eraser could be seen on the street for days afterwards. That Spring it rained heavily for days and he gave us lots of homework, saying there was nothing else we could do in such weather. His standard reply when we complained about being overworked was “it’s no skin off my nose”. Brother Garbriel died in Lincroft, NJ on November 30. 2012 and is buried in St Gabriel’s Cemetery, Marlboro, NJ. I wouldn’t have missed having had him as a teacher for the world. He got us ready for high school. Requiescas in pace, Frater!

    • The Christian Brothers (Fratres Scholarum Christianorum abbreviated as FSC) who taught at Good Shepherd School had a residence at 93 Park Terrace West south of W 218th Street

  9. In all my years of Catholic education the only teaching nun I ever had was in 1st grade at Good Shepherd School 1951-1952. She was a Sister of Mercy (official name of the order is Religious Sisters of Mercy) known as Sister Alphonsa, RSM. I remember her telling the class that she had told her Mother Superior what room she wanted in the new convent on the SE corner of Isham Street & Seaman Avenue. This site has a photo above of Francis Cardinal Spellman blessing the new convent in 1952. Sister Alphonsa’s secular name was Catherine Angela Burke. She left the Sisters of Mercy in 1969.

  10. Good to read all the comments about a great school. I go a little further back than all of those, as I was in the class of ’38. Sr. Jeanne was our Nun also for 6th grade. I also recall Sr. Blandina and her famous “Bell” to get our attention so that we all lined up with our classmates to enter the school in the morning and after lunch time. Many of us went home for lunch in those days. I remember one day in May 1937 as she rang her “Bell” the Hindenburg flew right over the school on her way to her destiny.
    The days spent at Good Shepherd are wonderful memories in a lifetime that has spanned many years and places.

  11. Just stumbled across this website. I often think of the years I spent at Good Shepherd. Those days, growing up in Inwood in Park Terrace East, will be days I cherish forever. What a great childhood. I remember the majority of my teachers. Mrs. Sedgwick, Sister Mary Robert, Brother Robert, Brother Les. Sister Andrea was the Principal when I attended, and I can still see Sister Victoire (sp?) walking in the lunchroom. There was a certain amount of time that we had to be completely silent in the lunchroom. Then, we were able to chat quietly. We raced outside for recess after lunch was done. Life was good and simple. We left for school each day and miraculously showed up home for dinner each night at 6:00 without the use of cell phones! I had so many “firsts” during this time. My fondest memory of a “first” is my first kiss. (I won’t mention his name). I can remember the summer between 7th and 8th grade when my parents announced we were moving to New Jersey. I still view that as the worst summer of my life. I still consider myself a New Yorker, and when people ask “where did you grow up?” I proudly say, “Park Terrace, and I attended Good Shepherd.”

  12. My parents moved into Inwood in 1939 and I entered Good Shepherd School in 1951 and I can remember all my teachers from Good Shepherd. My 1st Grade Teacher was Sr. Mary Una (she was my favorite teacher) 2nd Grade Teacher was Mrs. Marjorie Reynolds (her husband worked at the Colonial Funeral Palor), 3rd Grade Teacher was Miss Agnes Riley, 4th Grade Teacher was Miss Edith Heinsmann (she was not very nice to me and my Mom went up to talk to her and after that she was very nice to me), 5th Grade Teacher was Sister Mary Alphonsa, 6th Grade Teacher, Sister Mary Angela, 7th Grade Teacher was Sister Mary Vincenza and 8th Grade Teacher was Sister Mary Reparata (she left the convent) Sister came to our 8th Grade 50th Reunion at Good Shepherd. I also remember that when we were in 7th and 8th Grade we had dancing lesson with the 7th & 8th Grade boys once a week. I don not remember our Dancing Teacher’s name. Today I live upstate New York and work for an oil company and one of our customer’s is a Sister of Mercy. She taught upstate New York and is 93 years old. Recently she had fell at home as she now lives in the home that her parents had owned. She is in a rehabilitation center and she is hoping to gohome. On my lunch hour I go and see Sister Mary Florence as she is very special to me because she is a Sister of Mercy.

  13. I attended the GSS in the early 60’s. Was looking at the current staff, what happened to all the Sisters, I only see lay teachers now, such a shame. The sisters were tough, but fair and friendly, some of my best elementary school memories are of Sister Thaddeus and her flute a phone band.

  14. My Dad grew up in Inwood in the 50s-70s. My parents were married at Good Shepherd in 1974, Nelly & Thomas Kane. My Dad just passed away, God rest his soul. I was looking up Inwood to learn more about his childhood neighborhood and came across your site and the eye opening video, “Goodbye to Glocamorra.” Thank you for posting and maintaining this web site.

  15. It was often the practice on Ash Wednesday morning for a Paulist priest from Good Shepherd to station himself with a supply of ashes on the west side of Broadway north of Isham St by the entrance to the subway where the buses from the Bronx one would discharge passengers so that Catholics on their way to work could get ashes imposed on their foreheads


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