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The “Ghostly Remnant” of St. Joseph’s Orphan Asylum on East 90th Street

The “Ghostly Remnant” of St. Joseph’s Orphan Asylum on East 90th Street

In “The Ghostly Remnant,” published yesterday in Our Town, journalist Douglas Feiden explores the curious development history of an apartment building on East 90th Street that bears the uniquely preserved facade of the Chapel of St. Joseph’s Orphan Asylum. The asylum’s campus occupied the land once owned by 19th Century stock broker and banker Nathaniel Prime, whose mansion remained on the block until roughly 1918. The chapel, constructed in the early 20th century, was later repurposed as an auto garage before its conversion to an apartment in the 1980’s. This remnant is set to be covered by the construction of the Spence School’s new athletic facility, to be completed in 2020.

FRIENDS of the Upper East Side has been thoroughly documenting the cultural and architectural history of this block, and of this fascinating relic at 402 East 90th Street. As part of a former waterfront estate turned religious institution that served the civic, social, and religious needs of the German immigrant community, this site closely tracks the history of Yorkville that FRIENDS has long been dedicated to uncovering. This exquisite facade is one of the last surviving — and indeed the most striking — fragments of this particular strain of Yorkville’s history and it deserves to be remembered and celebrated. To learn more about the neighborhood, click HERE to view FRIENDS’ recent documentary or purchase our book, both called Shaped by Immigrants: A History of Yorkville.

Scroll down to read the text of the article or click HERE to find the full article in Our Town.

A monumental vestige of the Chapel of St. Joseph’s Orphan Asylum

A monumental vestige of the Chapel of St. Joseph’s Orphan Asylum at 402 East 90th Street, viewed from the lot where the Spence School is set to construct a new athletic facility. Once completed, this facade will permanently be obscured. Photo: Sarah Greig Photography/FRIENDS of the Upper East Side

The Nathanial Prime Mansion during the Asylum years in 1907.

The Nathanial Prime Mansion during the Asylum years in 1907. Photo: New York Historical Society