In the heart of New York's Lower East Side, where generations of immigrants to America made their first home in their new country stands the Church of St. Teresa. A beautiful Gothic Church, rich with the history of this most vibrant neighborhood, is located at the corner of Henry and Rutgers Street and is the site of New York's oldest hand-wound tower clock. St. Teresa's is one of the communities most beloved institutions, having ministered to the needs of the parishioners for over 140 years.
There has been a church at the present site since 1798 when Henry Rutgers deeded out lands for development as New York City continued to expand beyond its old boundary at Wall Street. The church that was established was a Presbyterian church, and after several years of growth, it built the current structure in the early 1840's. At that time the neighborhood was well established, and moderately prosperous, with the East River docks just a few blocks south. With its new building, Rutgers Presbyterian Church was there to stay.
However in the 1840s the first waves of Irish immigrants began arriving because of the potato famine. They flooded the neighborhood, changing what was a middle class protestant enclave into an Irish Catholic slum. The residents of the Lower East Side began to move, and with it them, the congregation of Rutgers Presbyterian, eventually settling at 73rd and Broadway, where it exists today. For more information about the first church to call the corner of Henry and Rutgers home, go to www.rutgerschurch.com.
In 1863 the Church of St. Teresa's was established. The patroness of the parish is Teresa of Avila; The child of Jewish converts, Teresa was born in Spain in 1515. Teresa lived in turbulent times; the New World had been discovered by Columbus; the Protestant Reformation was raging in Germany. Teresa grew up in a world where women essentially had two options; marriage or the convent. Teresa, an independent minded woman, entered the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation in 1536.