We’re thrilled to announce that our video, “A Noble and Humble History of The Leo House,” has been published on our website. We invite you to learn about the history of The Leo House and the origins on New York City dating back to 1889.
Largely made possible by the generosity of world-renowned author, Mary Higgins Clark, this video brings together historic artifacts saved by our Development Manager, Sister Marilyn Ellickson, as well as historic archives of New York City and the Vatican. The video will be available to view within this blog article and also on our main website on the “About Us” page.
An excerpt from the video, “A Noble and Humble History of The Leo House”-
“Be a light of the world to others”
“Every person should be a light of the world to others and help people. This saying is taken from the bible and largely resembles what The Leo House is all about: Christian Hospitality. From small beginnings, The Leo House was established as a non-profit refuge for German immigrants coming to New York City. Germans were the largest group of immigrants arriving in the U.S. in the mid-late 1800’s. About 35% of them were Catholic. They came to America with dreams for a better life but after a perilous 4000-mile journey more danger awaited them. Many of them didn’t speak english and were sometimes robbed of the little money and possessions they carried.
Founders of The Leo House
Worried about German immigrants’ safety in the U.S., Peter Paul Cahensly, a German businessman, founded the St. Raphael Verein in 1883. The Society protected Catholic travelers and guided them safely to their destinations. His one goal: to save the faith of these newcomers. Mr. Cahensly’s commitment to these German-Catholic immigrants would eventually lead up to the founding of The Leo House. On December 7th, 1889, Bishop Winard M. Wigger, of Newark, New Jersey, with the approval of Archbishop Corrigan of New York, formally opened The Leo House.
The Original Location of The Leo House
It was conveniently located on 6 State Street, near the immigration center called Castle Garden, which preceded Ellis Island. Pope Leo XIII himself approved of The Leo House. In 1887, Pope Leo XIII had given $50,000 towards the project, the same amount given to him from German-American Catholics across the U.S. for his 50th Golden Jubilee. In recognition for the pontiff’s outstanding generosity, the safe haven for German immigrants was named “The Leo House” in his honor.
Sisters of St. Agnes and The History of The Leo House
Many obstacles were overcome but one major challenge persisted. Who would run The Leo House on a day-to-day basis? New York architect William Schickle, Vice President of The Leo House, recommended the German-speaking Sisters of St. Agnes to be the caretakers. So Mr. Schickle wrote to Mother Agnes Hazotte in Fon-du-lac Wisconsin. She conferred with her community and the local bishop. Then she and other sisters stepped up to the challenge of taking on the ministry of hospitality in far away New York.
A Safe Place for Travelers in New York City Since 1889
The Leo House has a long history of being a safe place for all travelers in New York City. In 1926, The Leo House moved to it’s current location to accommodate the need for more space. The Leo House exists today due to the dedication and the faith of many. Located in a 91 year old brownstone in the chic Chelsea district of Manhattan, The Leo House offers a unique experience of combining lodging, business amenities, an in-house chapel, and a dining room. And though it is no longer run by nuns, it offers a spiritual and tranquil setting that harken back to a quieter time.
The only historic guesthouse of its kind in the U.S., The Leo House prides itself on the 4 C’s: Clean, Comfortable, Cost-effective and Catholic. In fact, room 409 had a special guest in 1960. Her name is Saint Mother Teresa of Kolkata.
To this day, The Leo House offers something unique. Guests can enjoy a good night’s sleep, attend morning mass and say the rosary – all under the same roof.
From the earliest beginnings in lower Manhattan to today with it’s roots in Chelsea, The Leo House continues to flourish as a safe, affordable, peaceful haven that offers all travelers and visitors Christian Hospitality. A home-away-from-home right in the heart of New York City.”
We hope you enjoy this trip back in time. And remember, you always have a home-away-from-home at The Leo House of New York City!