St. Peter's Church (Hyde Park, New York)

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Church of St. Peter
LocationHyde Park, New York
DenominationRoman Catholic
DedicationSt. Peter
ArchdioceseArchdiocese of New York

Church of St. Peter is a Roman Catholic parish church under the authority of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, located in Hyde Park, Dutchess County, New York. It was established as a parish in 1837 (initially in Poughkeepsie). It is the second oldest Catholic Church on the Hudson (after St.Mary's in Albany) and is considered the Mother Church of the Hudson Valley because from it all the parishes in Ulster and Dutchess counties were founded.


Congregation of the Hudson[edit]

Twenty-two years after the Diocese of New York was founded in 1808, Bishop John DuBois, in 1830, authorized a Dominican, Father Phillip O’Reilly to establish parishes on the Hudson River north of Manhattan Island. The first congregation he ministered to was the small group of 28 Irish-born Catholic families, who on October 14, 1831 were organized as the Congregation on the Hudson.

Philip O'Reilly O.P. was stationed at Newburgh, New York from 1830 to 1832 and would visit Poughkeepsie once a month in summer. Fr. Patrick Duffy was pastor of Paterson, New Jersey from 1823-1836, when he was sent first to Our Lady of Loretto in Cold Spring. From there he served congregations in West Point, Cold Spring, Newburgh, Saugerties, Rondout, and Poughkeepsie. When the house of Robert Belton became too small for the number attending, Mass was celebrated in the old brewery, near the Lower Landing at Pine Street. And later at the Hibbasus' hall on Market Street near Jay Street.[1]

"Old' St. Peter's, Poughkeepsie

St. Peter's Church[edit]

By 1825 emigrants from Ireland were numerous enough in Poughkeepsie to form a well defined segment of the population. In 1837 a church building was erected on land donated by Peter Everett. When some bigoted individuals threatened to burn it down, a vigilance committee, made up of Catholics and Protestants, was formed to defend it. Dr. Pyne, a non-Catholic offered the defenders the loan of a small cannon. There was no further trouble.[1] The church was dedicated by Bishop DuBois on November 26, 1837. The pastor at that time was Rev. Patrick Duffy, who was then transferred to Newburgh. Rev. John McGinnis succeeded Duffy. The missions at Saugerties and Rondout were made dependencies of St. Peter's with expectation that each would be attended at least once a month.[2]

In 1839 McGinnis was succeeded by Rev. John N. Smith. It was Smith who erected a small frame church at Rondout. He also made trips to Rosendale. In 1842 Smith was assigned to St. James in New York, and Rev. Myles Maxwell became pastor at St. Peter's. Smith died in February 1848, having contracted ship's fever while attending the deathbed of Father Mark Murphy who had been ministering to immigrants at the quarantine station on Staten Island.[2]

Father Michael Riordan became pastor in September 1844 and "steered it safely" through the "Know-Nothing" agitation at that time. He had substantial influence among the Irish building the railroad and more than once quelled disturbances that threatened to turn into riots.[3]

In 1894 Father James Nilan commissioned the paintings of the Stations of the Cross and had them shipped from Rome. The Apostolic Nuncio from Washington and Archbishop Michael Corrigan of New York attended the dedication. Removed during subsequent renovation, they were discovered when Our Lady of Mount Carmel assume occupancy of Old St. Peter's and restored.[4]

The abandoned rectory burned around 1977.

Mission churches[edit]

In those early days, the spiritual needs of the local Catholic community were met by priests riding circuit out of St. Peter’s in Poughkeepsie. Father Maginnis (1837) was pastor not only of all Dutches County, but also of Rondout and Saugerties across the river. By 1840 St. Peter’s parish also included mission churches in Sylvan Lake and New Hamburg. Father Michael Riordan, pastor of St. Peter’s, and Father Myles Maxwell are remembered among a number of priests from St. Peter's' who also tended to St.Mary's in Wappingers Falls, founded in 1845.[5]

In 1965 St. Peter's parish re-located the Hyde Park, NY. Until acquiring the Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary, in 1999, St. Peter's functioned as a parish without a church. Masses were held in the school gymnasium.

Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel[edit]

The chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary is located on the grounds of the former Hudson River State Hospital and was a gift to the archdiocese by the Smith Brothers (of cough drop fame), in memory of their sister, Sister Mary Loretta Smith R.S.M. It was designed and built by Father John Casey S.J. in 1906. The altar is Carrara marble. The stained glass windows depicting the life of Mary and Jesus are all Lafarge, a protégé of Tiffany. The ceiling arches and pews are all hand-hewn oak. The Baptistery and Pulpit are from an 1880 Church in Philadelphia in which Mother Saint Katherine Drexel was baptized. The marble altar angels and Last Supper were sculptured in a studio in New York City in 1907. The roof is of local blue slate and the outside walls are built of New York field stone. It is located in the center of a hollow with winding roads and a stone bridge all designed by the famous New York City Central Park architect, Frederick Law Olmsted. The chapel has a seating capacity of about 400. All the statues and stations of the cross were created the year the chapel was built in 1906.

The vacant chapel was ready for demolition in 1999 when Rev. James Garisto advocated for the NY Archdiocese to purchase the property located on the grounds of the old abandoned psychiatric hospital. The property was purchased from the State of New York and restored by the parishioners of Saint Peter’s.[6]


  • Rev. Patrick Duffy (1835-1837)
  • Rev. John Maginnis (1837-1839)
  • Rev. John N. Smith (1839-1842)
  • Rev. Myles Maxwell (1842-1844)
  • Rev. Joseph P. Burke (5-9/1844)
  • Rev. Michael Riordan (9/1844-1870)
  • Rev. Caro (1870-1872)
  • Rev. Dr. Patrick McSweeney (1872-1877)
  • Rev. James Nilan (1877-1902)
  • Rev. William Livingston (1902-1906)
  • Rev. Joseph F. Sheahan (1906)[1]

St. Peter's School[edit]

St. Peter's School was established 166 years ago when Father Michael Riordan, Pastor of St. Peter's Church, saw a need for Catholic education in the Poughkeepsie area. The school was established in the basement of the Church, which was then on Mill Street in Poughkeepsie. By 1860, there was a great need to expand. It was around that time that the Sisters of Charity of Mount St. Vincent arrived to take charge of the girls' school on Clove St. In 1869, a boys' school was established across the street. In 1914 there were 325 boys enrolled in the school taught by five Marist Brothers, and 310 girls at the girls' school taught by six Sisters of Charity.

In 1965, the school was relocated to its present location on Violet Avenue, where it remains to this day.[7]

St. Peter's Cemetery[edit]

Old St.Peter's Churchyard was located in the city of Poughkeepsie,N.Y. on the east side of East Mansion St. and was in use from 1841 to 1884. The burying ground an East Mansion street, a parochial cemetery, was the resting place of a number of the first generation of Irish Immigrants to this locality. Subsequently, a second St. Peter's Cemetery was established on Salt POint Rd. in Poughkeepsie.

Celtic cross[edit]

On a prominent rise overlooking St. Peter's Cemetery is a World War I monument in memory of over 100 local men who served in World War I. The Celtic cross was originally built in 1917 of pre-cast concrete. By 1993 it was so badly deteriorated that it was dismantled and replaced the following year by one of solid granite approximately 30 feet tall.

Churches that developed from St. Peter's[edit]

St. Mary's, Rondout 1842
St. Joseph's, Kingston 1868
Holy Name of Jesus, Wilbur (Kingston) 1887 - later merged with St. Mary's, Rondout
St.Mary's (Wappingers Falls) 1845
St.Joachim (Matteawan) 1861 - merged with St. John the Evangelist 2004
St. Mary's (Fishkill) 1864
St.John the Evangelist (Fishkill Landing) 1887
St. Francis (Timoneyville/ Dutchess Junction) 1899
St. Denis (Sylvan Lake) 1899
St. Columba's (Hopewell Junction) 1992
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (LaGrange) 2002
Immaculate Conception (Amenia) 1866
St.Patrick's Chapel (Millerton) 1867
St. John the Evangelist (Pawling) 1885
St. Charles Borromeo (Dover Plains) 1936
Our Lady of Solace (Wingdale) 1962
St. Joseph's (Millbrook) 1889
Church of the Nativity/St. Martin de Porres (Poughkeepsie) 1852
St. Joseph's Chapel (Rhinecliff) 1862
St. Paul's Chapel (Staatsburg) 1887
Regina Coeli (Hyde Park) - 1887.
Sacred Heart (Barrytown) 1886
St. Christopher's (Red Hook) 1975
Good Shepherd (Rhinebeck) 1975
St. Mary's (Poughkeepsie) 1873
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Poughkeepsie (1910)
St. John the Baptist (Poughkeepsie)


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