A Brief History of
The Church of the Blessed Sacrament
The Parish of the Blessed Sacrament was founded in 1887. Our first pastor, Father Matthew A. Taylor, celebrated the first Mass on Easter Sunday, April 10 of that year, at a makeshift altar set up in the Havemeyer's stable formerly located on the north side of West 72nd Street. Father Taylor’s devotion to the Blessed Sacrament is the source for our parish’s very name. When Archbishop Corrigan appointed the thirty-four-year-old priest to found the new parish, the Archbishop suggested that the parish might be dedicated to St. Matthew. Instead, Father Taylor suggested that it be called Blessed Sacrament.
The first Church of the Blessed Sacrament was a red brick Italianate building erected on 71st Street, just west of the current church. Ground was broken for that first church building in July 1887 and the following Christmas it was opened for services. Archbishop Corrigan dedicated the church the following month. In 1903, Blessed Sacrament’s parochial school was opened under the charge of the Sisters of Charity of Mount St. Vincent.
As the upper west side grew as a residential district, the old Blessed Sacrament church, which held 800 people, proved inadequate for Father Taylor’s growing congregation. The task of building a new and larger church, however, would fall to Father Taylor’s successor. Father Taylor, who was named a monsignor in February 1914, died in August 1914 at age 61 after serving as Blessed Sacrament’s pastor for 27 years. At the time of his death, the Catholic News described Blessed Sacrament as “the model parish of the archdiocese” and Monsignor Taylor as one of New York’s “best known and most-beloved priests.”
Reverend Thomas F. Myhan succeeded Monsignor Taylor as Blessed Sacrament’s second pastor. Father Myhan almost immediately undertook the building of a new church and school. Gustave E. Steinbach, a 37-years-old graduate of Columbia University School of Architecture, was chosen as the architect for the new church and school. In designing Blessed Sacrament, Steinback was inspired by Sainte Chapelle in Paris, a small gothic chapel built by Louis IX in the 1240s to house relics from the Holy Land.
Plans had been drawn and virtually completed when Father Myhan died suddenly on October 8, 1916 at age 52 after serving as pastor for only two years. His successor, Monsignor William J. Guinan, at once took steps to bring Father Myhan’s plans to fruition. The old Blessed Sacrament church was torn down in 1917. That same year, the cornerstones of the new church and school were laid. On September 8, 1919, the new school on 70th Street, behind the present church, was opened. The following Christmas, just 32 years after the original church was opened, Monsignor Guinan celebrated the first Mass in our current Church of the Blessed Sacrament.
Today our Parish looks nothing like the idyllic countryside Father Taylor found when in 1887 he celebrated Blessed Sacrament’s first Mass in a stable on 72nd Street. The towering buildings that surround Blessed Sacrament almost completely obscure the church from passersby on Broadway. As in Father Taylor’s time, however, every day in the week, the faithful find our church for communion with Our Lord in His Blessed Sacrament.
Excerpted from Golden Jubilee, Church of the Blessed Sacrament, published in 1937.