Lasting Cultural Influences

Much of Alphabet City’s past immigrants came from Northern and Eastern Europe and left their mark on the area. We can see remnants of the past immigrant culture through the many religious sites while the present day immigrant culture still shapes the area in many other ways.

This is a picture of the nave of Saint Brigid Church located on 8th Street and Avenue B.

Past Influences
Marks of culture from Germany, Ireland, Ukraine, Greece, and Poland presents itself in the various churches in Alphabet City including Most Holy Redemer, Saint Brigid, Saint Stanslas, Saint Mary’s, and the Ukranian Catholic Church. Religion is one of the most influential lasting impacts on an area. We had the opportunity to visit Saint Brigid Irish Catholic church and could see the sense of community it helped to form in Alphabet City. In interviewing Father Jomar, a pastor working at Saint Brigid, he spoke to us about how Saint Brigid began as a primarily Irish Catholic church, but it developed into a place where members of the community could gather for help and support.

Here is a painting of Saint Brigid from inside the church.

Present Influences
In speaking to Father Moloney, we learned that most of the population occupying Alphabet City consists of people of Hispanic Origin. As waves of immigration come in and out, the culture shifts and the definition of the area as a place changes. We can see such a shift in the growing Hispanic culture of the area in newer establishments and restaurants. Many of these places in the area include Esperanto, Matilda, Buenos Aires, the Nuyorican Poets Café, and Café Cortadito. All of these establishments incorporate Latin American culture as a part of their central theme.

Creation of “Place”
In his book Space and Place, Yi-Fu Tuan describes the difference between space and place and how place develops as a product of space. He describes “place as a pause in the temporal current” (179) to suggest that time continues to move and flow, while place as a function of time pauses to establish itself. Alphabet City could be merely a space on the lower east side of Manhattan, but because of the ethnic diversity of the population over the years, this space has picked up cultural aspects that have left their mark as shown by the churches, restaurants, and other establishments that serve as the “pause[s]” in Alphabet City’s “temporal current.” These aspects aid in making Alphabet City a place with a central community that will continue to leave its mark over time and pass on traditions to future generations in the area.

A ghost print in Alphabet City advertising "Air Conditioned Chapels"




Works Cited

  1. Tuan, Yi-Fu. Space and Place. Minneapolis: Regents of the University of Minnesota, 1977. Print.