There’s Something Wrong With This Staten Island Church

Last weekend, I was scouting some locations on Staten Island, and the last on my list was this church at the southern tip of the island.

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At first, everything about the 185-foot tall Church of St. Joachim and St. Anne seemed perfectly normal.

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But as I was taking some angle shots, something started to feel…off.

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Then, as I walked around to the side, all of a sudden it occurred to me…

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What happened to the back of the church??

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It reminded me of old cartoons where Donald Duck or Bugs Bunny would build an insanely impressive mansion facade in front of a normal-sized house to fool people.

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From the rear, you can see that a concrete wall holds most of the upper structure up:

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As it happens, this incongruous pairing was the result of a tragic fire that ripped through the original church in 1973 and destroyed most of it.

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Miraculously, a sizable portion of the facade survived and was later installed as the front of the new, smaller church.

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But you want to know the weirdest thing? You’ve seen this church before.

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Sure you have! You mean you’ve forgotten? It was back in 1972, a year before the fire.

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If I recall, you were there for a baptism…

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Full then-and-now look at The Godfather coming soon!

-SCOUT

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22 comments

  1. I’m amazed that hasn’t been torn apart by a hurricane yet.

  2. I thought that the interior of the baptism scene was shot at Old St Patrick’s in NYC. Looking at the pic you posted, I am fairly certain. Are you saying this building served as the exterior shots?

    • You are correct. The interiors were indeed shot at Old St. Patrick’s, but the exterior shots of the limos arriving and the guests walking down the stairs after the baptism were shot on Staten Island. And of course, the Corleone compound was located on Emerson Hill, Staten Island.

      This is one of my favorite spots on SI, so wide open and peaceful. Just west of the church there are a few remains of an old rail spur that connected to the Staten Island Railway, back when it was a steam-powered rail line. Special excursion trains would enter Mount Loretto on sunny days so families could walk the grounds or go to the nearby ocean at Prince’s Bay.

  3. Wow! What an interesting story and an amazing connection to the Godfather!

  4. This church is pretty well inland, and up a hill, out of reach of the tidal surge. Mission of the Immaculate Virgin, Mt. Loretto, Staten Island.

    • Yes, indeed it is. Lot’s of folks think the whole of Staten Island was inundated by Sandy, but only the very low-lying areas immediately adjacent to the ocean suffered any real damage. Staten Island is very hilly in many spots and is well above sea level.

  5. If you look at the back you can see where the original roof line was and how much smaller the new building is.

    • Amen, brother. I noticed that too. Ghost outlines are always pretty cool in that they make one wonder what was there before only in this case we already know.

  6. Hey Scout! Thought you might like these other quirky church facades–include one where the facade remained, and the back side rebuilt in a modern style: http://untappedcities.com/2012/06/07/quirky-ny-when-a-facade-is-just-a-facade/

  7. Yes– it is a shame the church looks the way it does today- but at least we still have it. The fire was late at night in the winter years ago. The place was gutted- this was shortly after the baptismal scene from the Godfather was filmed there. Of course MONEY is the problem— no money to restore the church or have the roof as high as it once was, and so it looks absolutely silly to my eyes but if you don’t see the side I guess it will pass muster. The inside is a poor shadow of what was originally there. Walking in the woods deep behind the church you can find pieces of it– chunks of marble, glass and burned wood. It was a sad day.

  8. It’s a shame the original coloring of the stonework was lost and now it’s all the one tan color.

    I’m curious, was the facade somehow moved, or was the new church just built on the back? I only ask because of the part where it says, “…was later installed as the front of the new, smaller church.”

    • I was there during the re construction of the church; all that remained from the fire was the facade, however, the spirit of the old church remained…I know this because I attended the first service of the new church and I still go back to see the church even now…35 years later 🙂

  9. (If only they’d had Kickstarter back then!!)

  10. About the Godfather. It looked like Calvary Cemmetary in Queens when they are at the gravesite when the Don (Marlon Brando) dies but it looks like they are driving into St Raymond’s in the Bronx with the limos when they arrive for the burial. Did I see the gas tanks you could see from the LIE at the gravesite?

  11. Ya I and my brother were there from 1957-1960. When I saw the picture, coming down the steps in front of the gazeebo and chestnut trees I was more than certain what I was looking at. I guess someone took exception to them filming that kind of movie and burned it down. I was an altar boy and serve a lot of masses there.

    I was not an orphan and there were lots of kids who had absolutely no one in the world and were there for years on

  12. …end.

    Worst three years of my life. They beat me until I finally lost my mind.

    John

    That as not the only structure they set fire to.

  13. I would say more but this site has worms in it and can’t type. I was not particularly saddened by all that had transpired in the years after I left. All I could envision was me, naked in the lavatory, being beaten, and then having to stand at attention for three, sometimes four weeks. How I wish my father would come so I could tell him what they do there. He never came, not in three years. I never told my Mom because I didn’t want to hurt her. We had a game with the chestnuts that I later found out was an English game called Conquer.

    John

  14. Scout

    You must have liked “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

  15. Yes, there is truly somethinig wrong with that church.

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