3. Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, 7 State Street, James Watson House

The Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is named for the first American-born saint canonized by the Catholic Church and an early inhabitant.


The Shrine of St. Elizabeth Seton is a notable reminder of post-revolutionary New York, when wealthy shipping merchants built a row of residences on State Street with the advantageous port and river views. Its curving portico adds detailing beyond a standard rectangular townhouse. The church is actually two houses while the lines of the portico are thanks to the nature of State Street itself. The slope of the street meant one house angled slightly to the front of the other, requiring the curved connector we seen today.

The James Watson family living on 7 State Street were prominent members of New York society and often hosted American leaders such as Alexander Hamilton and George Washington. Hamilton remained a presence in this area with the Alexander Hamilton Customs House, itself an example of adaptive reuse. Today the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian occupies most of the former customs center.

As State Street commercialized and residents moved out, many of the houses fell into disrepair and were taken over by the city. The shabby condition of 7 State Street allowed the Catholic Church to purchase the house from the city in 1870 for $1. The Mission House was established to serve as a support structure to the newly arrived waves of Irish females. The immigrants, who would dock Manhattan right in front of the Mission House often arrived without any connections or funds available.

The Mission House played an important role in the events of the Titanic, as the missionaries provided shelter and housing to the survivors from steerage class. The first class survivors made their way further uptown to the Waldorf Astoria hotel. Later it was renamed in honor of its past inhabitant and remains active today.