ather James J. Flood arrived in Park Slope late in 1905.
On October 8th of that year, a letter from Bishop McDonnell
had informed him that he had been selected to form a new parish on the Hill section of the Slope. The new parish was to be erected from portions taken from the parishes of Holy Name, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Francis Xavier. It was to extend from Fourth to Tenth Streets, and from Sixth Avenue to Prospect Park West.
Leaving his pastorate at St. Agnes, Rockville Centre (ed. note: this was a parish where he had just built the church, now St. Agnes Cathedral), Fr. Flood surveyed the proposed parish and reported to the Bishop on October 12th. As a result of this interview, Father Flood was directed to find a suitable site for a church and negotiate for its purchase. For a month he devoted his time to investigating the neighborhood. The red brick Engs mansion at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Seventh Street became more appealing each day as a site for a future rectory and chapel. Finally, aided by James McMahon, president of the Emigrants Bank and a resident of the new parish, he was able to arrange the purchase.
The purchase was concluded on November 9th, 1905, the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of Our Saviour, a remarkable coincidence, as the bishop had already directed Father Flood to call the parish St. Saviour. And so,
the newest parish on the Slope received the oldest title in Christendom. This structure, which cost $18,000, was to be used as a temporary chapel and rectory. Less than a week later, the corner lot at Eighth Avenue and
Sixth Street was purchased from the Turnbull family of Baltimore for $42,648.
This was to be the site of the new church and school. A month later, the house at 611 Eighth Avenue was purchased for $9,000 as a part of a future permanent rectory.
On December 21, 1905, Father Flood moved into the red brick mansion at Eighth Avenue and Seventh Street. The first floor was turned into a chapel and was blessed by Father O’Reilly, the rector of Holy Name. On the morning of
Sunday, December 31st, the first mass in the new parish was offered. About 100 parishioners were present, and the entry in the parish book for that date notes that the first collection in St. Saviour amounted to $15.94.
Two important milestones in the early history of St. Saviour occurred on January 7th and 28th of the year 1906. The former marked the occasion of the first baptism, that of David Francis Saviour Hill; and, on the latter date, Annie Collum and Henry Brier were married in the chapel on Seventh Street.
The need for a new church became more pressing; so plans were formulated rapidly. The design for a beautiful Romanesque structure was submitted by the architectural firm of Lynch and Orchard of New York and accepted by the bishop. The edifice was to be built in two sections — a basement church at first and later, when resources would permit, an upper church.
On February 1st, ground was broken on the corner of Eighth Avenue and Sixth Street, and work started on the lower church. The estimate for construction by the Henry Booth Co. was $27,710, but unexpected difficulties
in constructing a firm foundation added $10,000 to the cost. The work proceeded slowly, and all the time the congregation was growing so fast that the chapel in the red brick mansion was rapidly becoming inadequate. A
census taken in February showed that, in the two months of its existence, the congregation had increased from 100 to 1,060 souls.
By December, the new basement church was ready and, on the 16th day of the month, was solemnly dedicated by Bishop McDonnell. In the presence of his Excellency, pastors from the surrounding parishes, and over 1,200
parishioners, Father Flood sang the mass.
Owing to the large number of children in the parish, the need of a school was becoming imperative. But finances made it impossible to build at that time. Instead, the old red brick house was transformed into a temporary
convent and school pending the completion of the parish institution. Sister Pauline of the order of St. Joseph was appointed to take charge of the school, St. Saviour Institute. And, as Father Flood cryptically noted at that time in the parish book: “The Institute was opened for business September 9th.”
This year of 1906 was a year of deep joy to Father Flood. He saw his parish prospering and his people being served. His closing entry for the year echoes his priestly happiness: “The number attending mass on days of obligation averaged over 1,000 on each day. St. Saviour’s is a remarkable success. Deo Gratis.”
History of the beginnings of St. Saviour Parish
Excerpted from a booklet written by Rev. Thomas F. Kelly, 1956