Nestled amidst the bustling crossroads of Mercer, Bleeker, and Broadway, LaGuardia Place is a shady haven of cafes, boutiques, and New York University (NYU) buildings. However, this quaint corner boasts a deep-rooted history as a center for innovation and education. Before NYU claimed its space, the corner of Bleecker and La Guardia, which is believed to originally been known as Laurens Street, was the very first home of Sacred Heart Greenwich.
The story begins nearly two centuries ago, back in 1827, when Bishop John Dubois of New York asked Saint Madeleine Sophie to establish a Sacred Heart school in the city. Despite her genuine desire, financial and staffing constraints prevented Sophie from fulfilling his request. A dozen years later, a new bishop, John Hughes, refused to take no for an answer. He persevered, persistently petitioning Sophie until she finally agreed.
Sophie entrusted the mission of establishing the first Sacred Heart school in New York to Mother Aloysia Hardey, a seasoned educator with a track record of establishing twenty-five Sacred Heart schools from Halifax to Havana. Mother Hardey was not only admired for her business acumen and strong leadership, but also revered for her mentorship of young Religious within the order. It was often said that, "No one ever left her presence without being made braver and better."
The doors to the building at 135 Bleecker Street swung open in 1848, and word of the Catholic school's rigorous academic program quickly spread. The school's enrollment had surged to sixty students and growing, nearly half of whom were boarders. The annual tuition of $50 covered a comprehensive curriculum, encompassing religion, English literature, philosophy, geography, French, needlework, and dressmaking.
Mother Sarah Jones, a great-granddaughter of Alexander Hamilton, assumed the role of overseeing the school's operations, while Mother Hardey served as the Superior of the Community.
Recalling those early years, Mother Jones described them as challenging, with limited funds, sparse amenities, and daily sacrifices made by both students and the Religious to keep the fledgling school afloat. "We were very poor in New York," wrote Mother Jones, "we had no regular beds and could not afford fuel for the fires, except in the classrooms where at night we stretched out on our mattresses."
However, despite the hardships, an unwavering spirit of passion, curiosity, and faith filled the hearts of the Religious and their students. The school's commitment to graduating students who are thinkers and doers undoubtedly left an enduring mark on the space that exists today. Although the original Sacred Heart school building may no longer be there, the legacy of the School lives on as the area has remained a hub for education and a home for those who are inspired to transform the world.