of the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin
|Today's date is:
|Reverend John Christopher Drumgoole founded Mount Loretto, formerly the largest childcare institution in the
United States, located at 6581 Hylan Blvd, Staten Island, NY.
BUT THE "HOME" DIDN'T START ON STATEN ISLAND...it started in Manhattan, on the lower East
For 21 years, Mr. Drumgoole was the Janitor/ Sexton for St. Mary's Church, where he became the benefactor
of many children by permitting the children of the streets to gather in the basement for shelter. He trained alter
boys, taught them religion, and did whatever he could to encourage their education or employment. He
organized several boys’ clubs and visited the poor. Many of these children slept in alleys and sold newspapers
to survive. Some were as young as 6 years old.
|After he was ordained in 1868, Father Drumgoole was appointed to his former parish, St. Mary’s. The
Christian Brothers taught 600 boys and the Sisters of Charity 750 girls.
The “St. Vincent’s Home for Homeless Boys of All Occupations” located at 53 Warren Street was established
by The Society of St. Vincent’s De Paul in June, 1870 and provided accommodations for 100 boys, but ended
the 1st year with only 25 boys.
In September 1871, Fr. Drumgoole, at the age of 55, assumed full control of the home as the resident chaplain
and before long it was full to capacity. They expanded the home, now called the Newsboys’ Home, by renting
and refurbishing 3 floors of a building next door. Each boy paid 25 cents a day, except Sundays and Holidays,
for lodging and board.
After a severe financial depression coupled with a bitter cold winter struck in 1873, many homeless boys
jammed the Newsboys’ Home. They slept on tables, benches, and patches of carpet. Thousands of meals
were served at the Home that year.
The St. Vincent's Newsboys' Lodging House became inadequate to care for the large number of abandoned
and orphaned children and on December 31, 1878 Fr. Drumgoole purchased land at Great Jones Street and
Lafayette Place fro $68,987.20 and at a sum of $300,000 built the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin. In
December 1881, Fr. Drumgoole established the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin for the Protection of
Homeless and Destitute Children.
This 10-story building, the tallest in the neighborhood, located at the corner of Great Jones and Lafayette
Streets, consisted of a kitchen in the basement, a chapel and administrative offices on the 1st floor, classrooms
and libraries on the 2nd floor, and living quarters were on the upper floors. The roof, enclosed with wire mesh,
was the 1st rooftop playground in NYC.
|Financial support came from the worldwide “St. Joseph’s Union” whose members contributed 25 cents a year
in dues, from the Irish Immigrant Society, and from “The Homeless Child” magazine. The building cost about
300,000 dollars and was totally free of dept.
The Franciscan Sisters, under Fr. Drumgoole’s guidance, administered to the needs of the 400 children that
filled the home after it opened with 200 children attending grammar school.
In 1880, Fr. Drumgoole obtained the use of a mansion in Fort Washington on the eastern shore of the Hudson
River and filled it with orphan girls and very young children.
In June 1882, 6 months after establishing the MIV in downtown Manhattan, he purchased the 138-acre farm
from the Bennett Family for $22,000, four adjourning farms, and a large beach area off Raritan Bay. It became
the 400-acre country place of the mission, located between Pleasant Plains and Tottenville on the Southern tip
of Staten Island, called Mount Loretto.
|Back To Top
|On Thanksgiving Day, 1883, 400 boys settled into their new home. The girls and younger children from Fort
Washington occupied their own special quarters, under the direction of the Sisters of St. Francis. By 1886, Fr.
Drumgoole was caring for 1,180 children divided between Mount Loretto on SI and MIV in NYC.
Trade schools and other buildings were later built at a cost of one million dollars and the care was given to a
community of Franciscan nuns.
Mount Loretto was able to care for more than 2,000 homeless and destitute children annually. In the period
from 1871 to 1885, the mission had cared for 15,730 children. By 1885, as indicated in the "Homeless Child"
by Fr. Drumgoole, 16,000 children were cared for, 5,000 prepared for First communion, 2,500 cared for free
for an entire year, 6,000 given free clothing, and thousands fed.
The kids made their own clothes and shoes, grew their own food, and raised livestock and poultry. The home
was completely free of debt.
Mount Loretto was cultivated into the most productive farm on SI, the largest in the state and the 3rd largest in
the country. At peak production, 1,000 quarts of milk were produced daily. The barn, reputed to be the
largest in the country, housed 300 head of cattle and 50 horses. The pen kept 600 pigs. The dairy farm, the
3rd largest in NYS, was closed and the herd was sold in 1961.
In 1882, Fr. Drumgoole organized a brass band and for nearly 100 years, the Mount Loretto Band marched in
every Saint Patrick's Day Parade. At the time, the band was one of the best in the country and even performed
at the White House.
Mount Loretto has the only known Alumni Association of former residents of a children's home. In 1940 the
alumni had their first formal reunion. Fifteen Hundred attended with their families.
In 1941, the population at Mount Loretto became racially integrated and, until the 1990s, housed thousands of
less fortunate children and wards of the State.
After Fr. Drumgoole died, the asylum for the blind was established at Mount Loretto. St. Joseph’s Home for
the Blind closed in 1943.
St. Aloysius School was completed in 1907. The central dining hall was built in 1908. In 1962, construction
began for the new Infirmary. In 1967, the swimming pool was completed.
In the early 1960s, Mount Loretto moved away from the image of a Catholic orphanage and, for 30 years,
became a foster care agency with the City.
In 1978, the Critical Care Program was opened to serve adolescents with a dual diagnosis of mental retardation
and psychiatric disorders. In 1979, the following were inaugurated: Drumgoole Diagnostic Unit, the Omega
Program for adolescents recovering from severe emotional illness, and the Refugee Assistance Program for
Children. In 1980, the Residential Treatment Center for adolescents with social and emotional handicaps was
begun. In 1987, a Temporary Nursery was opened for infants and toddlers waiting for foster or adoptive
Many people must wonder exactly how many children passed through the doors of the "Home", but one thing is
for sure...many lives were forever affected.
Duval Cottage (pictured below, building on left of St. Elizabeth's) was originally the Hen House and had the
ability to hatch a thousand chickens at any given time. In 1915, the cottage became the Infants Home of the
Immaculate Conception (“The Baby House”). In the early 1960s, Duval Cottage housed teenage females.
Duval Cottage later closed, sometime in the 1980s, when the girls moved to the boyside.
|Duval Cottage, bictured below, in ruins.
In 1888, Fr. James Dougherty (Fr. Drumgoole's successor) constructed the beautiful, five-story, Georgian-style
building called St. Elizabeth's. It was built on the spectacular 194-acre waterfront portion of Mount Loretto,
south of Hylan Blvd, and became the girls’ orphanage in 1897. It was the largest of the 3 buildings on the
"Girlside" overlooking Raritan Bay. A towering statue of St. Joseph holding the Child Jesus faced the St.
Elizabeth's Building. By 1913, there were 500 girls in residence at St. Elizabeth’s.
|Back To Top
|For 91 years, St. Elizabeth's housed thousands of adolescent girls accommodating 350 girls at a time. By
1913, there were 500 girls in residence at St. Elizabeth’s.
In 1988, the girls moved into buildings on the "Boyside", North of Hylan Blvd. St. Elizabeth's was then used as
an administration building until it became vacant in 1992.
Mount Loretto has the last undeveloped shoreline in the state, encompassing one mile of seashore. The
property is an ecologically rich area of meadows, woodlands, wetlands, costal bluffs, and shoreline. The
"Mount" property, which has been fallow for 4 decades, is valued at more than $40 million.
In 1999, the Catholic Archdiocese was persuaded, by a national conservation organization, to sell the 194-acre
Girlside property for $25 million, in order to preserve the natural and recreational resources and to make it
available to the public.
On March 5, 2000, St. Elizabeth's was destroyed by fire caused by teenage arsonists.
In 1955, construction began on the Sacred Heart Villa building, overlooking Raritan Bay. It was one of two
buildings that housed teenage girls.
|Photo of the Villa will be posted soon.
Please check back.
|THE PRINCES BAY LIGHTHOUSE:
The Colonial Brownstone tower, with no lantern, is located adjacent to the Mount Loretto girlside, on the bluff
overlooking the bay. A statue of the Virgin Mary called “Star of the Sea” was brought from the City Mission
and placed on the tower in place of the lantern.
The lighthouse was established in 1826 and the present tower was built in 1864. The lighthouse was once part
of the MIV property and because it housed the Monsignor of the institution, was called "Monsignor's Hill". The
"Mount" kids spent many cold snowy winter days sledding down the very large lighthouse hill. The lighthouse is
currently privately owned and is not open to the public.
|AIRIAL VIEW OF THE BOYSIDE:
Saint Joachim and Anne Church, Satint Joseph's School, Junior Cottages, Senior Houses, Infirmary, and several
buildings were located on the Boyside.
|Back To Top
There were many structures built and many demolished over the years, such as, the Pavilions on the Girlside and
the infirmary and Cottages on the Boyside. Cottages can be viewed in the above picture (lower right).
The six (6) adjacent cottages, located on the "Boyside", housed the adolescent boys. The cottages were torn
down in the early 1970s.
|SAINT JOACHIM AND ANNE CHURCH:
Before his death, Fr. Drumgoole planned the building of the Church. On the Feast of the Nativity of the
Blessed Virgin Mary, September 8, 1887, Fr. Drumgoole broke ground and blessed the site on which the
Church was later built. Construction was completed on April 13, 1891, with a steeple that rose 225 feet into
the sky, surmounted by a gilded cross. It was the largest Church on Staten Island. The Church. located on the
Boyside, was 185 feet in length, 85 feet wide, and 102 feet tall to the ceiling. Designed by Benjamin E. Lowe,
the Church reflected the Gothic style of architecture with a granite front. A distinguishing feature was the
absence of all columns and pillars. There was an Alter of pure Carrara marble, 53 feet high and 28 feet wide,
the gift of the Comeau Family, friends of Fr. Drumgoole.
The carpentry, painting, and plumbing, had been done by the boys of the MIV – Mount Loretto. The pews and
doors were done in the mission's trade school. The stained glass windows were the work of Munich artists.
|Two Memorial Plaques were located in the vestibule of the Church. One, unveiled September 10, 1922, listed
the names of 20 Mount Boys killed in WWI. The 2nd, unveiled in 1946, recorded 45 names of men of Mount
Loretto who gave their lives in WWII.
In 1972, the Baptism scene in the "Godfather" movie was filmed in the magnificent church.
On Wednesday morning, 4:40 am, December 19, 1973, a fire that started in the boiler room destroyed the
landmark church. Only the steeple and 4 charred granite and brick walls were left standing. The church was
rebuilt in 1976.
|SAINT JOSEPH'S SCHOOL: The trade school building was completed in 1889
|Back To Top
|SENIOR COTTAGES: There were five (5) senior cottages that housed teenage boys called: St. Peter, St.
Francis, St. John, St. Paul, St. Anthony, St. Croix, and Cottages A & B.
|Mount Loretto housed some of the best Athletes in NY, especially in Football, Track, Baseball, and other
sports. The Football team won several championships.
|The Boyside is now being used as an Educational, Recreational, and Social Facility, offering community
programs for children and adults with special needs, the disabled, Senior Citizens, and community groups.
The 22,000-square foot Community Center, a joint operation between the CYO and MIV, includes a lecture
and banquet hall, recreational facility, and two public schools.
The recreational Facility, featuring a 10,000-square foot gym will help accommodate the growing number of
athletes and will be used for community events. Cardinal Edward Egan dedicated the $3.25 Million CYO-MIV
Community Center in November 2001.
June 12, 2006.
visits to this
6 July 03
|Click below to see pictures and read about our founder, Father Drumgoole.
|Be sure to check out additonal photos from the "Services" page.