New York Architecture Images- Lower Manhattan

SHRINE OF ST. ELIZABETH ANN BAYLEY SETON and James Watson house.  Landmark Top Ten New York Churches


James Watson house: James McComb, Jr. 
Shrine: Shanley & Sturges 


7 State Street, between Pearl and Whitehall Streets. 


James Watson house: 1794-1806, Shrine: 1965






Church, House
  Image thanks to


7 State Street (between Pearl and Whitehall Sts) 1793-1806, eastern portion architect unknown; the western half attributed to James McComb, Jr. architect

Although a contemporary building, the shrine was designed in the Georgian Style to match the adjacent Watson House. This small chapel is dedicated to Elizabeth Seton, the founder of the Catholic order of Sisters of Charity, who was canonized in 1975. A close comparison of the Shrine with the Watson House reveals the material, technical and stylistic differences between the 18th century residence and its historicist 20th century neighbor.

Once home of wealthy merchant James B. Watson, this typical Federal Style rowhouse is the only extant residence in this area. Like other merchants of 18th and early 19th century New York City, Watson chose to live near the river in order to have an unobstructed harbor view and to be in close proximity to his shipping interests. The eastern portion (1793) which follows the line of the street was executed by an unknown architect, while the curved western portion (1806) has been attributed to the sophisticated architect, John McComb Jr. Following the Civil War, the house was purchased by Irish immigrant Charlotte Grace O'Brien to serve as the Mission of Our Lady of the Rosary, a waystation for young immigrant girls.

The Watson residence is the sole survivor of the elegant Federal style row houses that lined State Street and lower Broadway in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The original part of the Watson house is the eastern half; the porticoed western half, built in 1806, is ascribed to James McComb, Jr., the first native-born architect, is a brilliant solution to the problem of fitting a rowhouse to an irregular site and letting light into a deep floor plan. When the Watson residence was built it overlooked New York harbor across a promenade with unobstructed view of the hills of Staten Island, New Jersey and Brooklyn. State Street was a popular choice for the homes of prosperous sea captains and merchants who could view the ships that abounded in the harbor. Today the Watson house is occupied by the Rectory of the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Once part of a row of late-eighteenth-century mansions, this sole survivor recalls the time when New York's wealthiest families lived at Manhattan's southern tip. With their northward exodus, the building functioned as a hotel until 1886, when it became the Mission of Our Lady of the Rosary, a home for immigrant girls.

A 1965 restoration of the mission removed the dormers and added a railing at the roofline. With the 1940 demolition of the El and the 1960s proliferation of box-and-plaza skyscrapers, the mansion now seems stranded on a too-wide street amidst oversized neighbors. In 1975, the mission was dedicated as the Rectory of the Shrine of St. Elizabeth Seton, after America's first canonized saint, who was born on Staten Island.


A statue of Saint Elizabeth Seton is outside the building, which is currently the rectory of her shrine.

Mother Seton was the first American-born person to be canonized, by Pope Paul VI in 1975.

Biography of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton 1774-1821

Elizabeth Ann Bayley, one of two daughters of a prominent Episcopal family, was born in New York on August 28, 1774. She was a charming little girl, small-boned and dainty, with great brown eyes and a face like a cameo, who from the very first loved God and wanted to be good. Having lost her mother at the age of three, she was deeply attached to her physician father and used to sit beside her schoolroom window watching for him on the street. When he appeared, she would slip out quickly and run for a kiss. As a young girl, she experienced the ups and downs of adolescence, imagined now and then that her father did not love her (there was a stepmother), and on one melancholy occasion she fantasized ending it all. She rejoiced in the world on one day and on the next longed to retreat to a convent in the country to teach children about God, or to join the Quakers "who wear such pretty bonnets."

Beautiful, vivacious, fluent in French, a fine musician, and an accomplished horsewoman, she grew up and became a popular guest at parties and balls. Long afterward she wrote of all this as quite harmless, except for distractions at night prayers and the bother of fussing over dresses. Small wonder young William Seton fell head over heels in love with her. She returned his love adoringly and they were married, surely to live happily ever after.

It began felicitously enough in a gracious home on Wall Street, William busy at his family's shipping business, Elizabeth with the beginnings of a family. Anna Maria was born, then young Willy, and then came a thin thread of worry in the form of William's ill health. With the death of his father, their fortunes began to decline. William was tormented by visions of debtor's prison, while Elizabeth was certain that God would help them to survive. "Troubles always create a great exertion of my mind," she wrote, "and give it a force to which at other times it is incapable.. . . I think the greatest happiness of this life is to be released from the cares of what is called the world."

In two and a half years, they were bankrupt. Elizabeth spent that Christmas watching the front door to keep out the seizure officer. The following summer she and the children stayed with her father, who was health officer for the Port of New York on Staten Island. When she saw the babies of newly arrived Irish immigrants starving at their mothers' breasts, she begged her physician father to let her nurse some of them since she was weaning her fourth child, but he refused. By summer's end, he too was a victim of the yellow fever epidemic, and Elizabeth was grief-stricken. More and more she turned to the Scriptures and the spiritual life, and in May of 1802 she wrote in a letter that her soul was "sensibly convinced of an entire surrender of itself and all its faculties to God."

Then in 1803, the doctor suggested a sea journey for William's health. Against Elizabeth's better judgment they set sail for Italy to visit their friends, the Felicchi family. To pay for the voyage, she sold the last of her possessions-silver, vases, pictures, all probably inherited from her father. The voyage was pleasant, but arriving at Leghorn they were quarantined in a stone tower on a cane] outside the city because of the yellow fever epidemic in New York. There she endured for forty days the cruelest suffering she was ever to know, possibly the key to all that happened during the rest of her life. She wept, then reproached herself for behaving as though God were not present. She tended the racked patient, now coughing blood; amused Anna Maria, who had come with them, with stories and games; and held little prayer services. When the cold numbed them beyond bearing, she and Anna Maria skipped rope. William died two days after Christmas in Pisa, at the age of thirty-seven. Only the laundress would help the young widow to lay out his body.

While waiting to return to America, Elizabeth attended the churches of her Italian friends where she was deeply impressed by the Catholic belief in the real presence. If this teaching about the Blessed Sacrament had been held in the Episcopal church in New York at the time, Elizabeth Seton's story might have been very different, for this doctrine was at the very heart of her conversion. Returning to New York, poor now and living upstairs in a little house supplied by friends, the news of her interest in the church stirred up consternation on all sides. She agonized with indecision about it until finally, on March 14, 1805, she became a Roman Catholic.

Several plans to support her family failed, and finally she opened a boardinghouse for schoolboys; but when her sister-in-law, Cecelia Seton, became a Roman Catholic also, her angry supporters withdrew. Hearing of her need, the president of St. Mary's College in Baltimore offered her a residence with a teaching position in that city. She accepted and left New York for good on June 8, 1808.

In March of 1809, she pronounced her vows before Bishop John Carroll of Baltimore, was given some property in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and in June she, her three daughters, her sisters-in-law, Cecelia and Harriet Seton, and four young women who had joined them, began what was to become the American foundation of the Sisters of Charity. For special occasions they wore black dresses with shoulder capes, a simple white bonnet tied under the chin (like Elizabeth's mourning dress); and for everyday they wore whatever else they had. Their temporary abode provided four rooms, two cots, mattresses on the floor under a leaky roof where in winter snow sifted down over them. Vegetables, now and then a bit of salt pork or buttermilk, and a beverage called carrot coffee was their fare-all flavored with that great zest for survival which had become a habit with Elizabeth. When they moved to their unfinished permanent home they were invaded by fleas which had infested the horsehair for the plaster. Finally the home was completed and they had "an elegant little chapel, 30 cells, an infirmary, refectory, parlor, school, and workroom."

But once again death became a familiar. Harriet died, then Cecelia, and torrents of invective from New York condemned Elizabeth as "that pest of society, that hypocrite and bigot." In the eleven years left she would lose Anna Maria and little Bec (Rebecca) as well; her grief over the loss of her loved ones was long and terrible.

But life went on. The rule, money troubles, possessive clergy, an ill-suited spiritual director, additional schools, the demand for more and still more sisters, were only some of her burdens. Through them all she seemed to remain cheerful and patient, but her letters to her director reveal the terrible suffering, the aridity, the darkness of soul. Her sons, upon whom she doted, were ordinary, self-centered young men whose faults their mother never saw quite clearly. Until the end of her life she sent them money, proposed schemes which did not appeal to them, wrote them sentimental letters, and worried for their souls. William eventually married (one of his sons would become a bishop); while Richard, having been spiritually adrift and in debt, returned home, rectified his life, signed on a merchant voyage, and died at sea. Catherine, her youngest child, became a Sister of Mercy in New York and lived to be ninety-one.

Elizabeth Seton died slowly and painfully of the tuberculosis which had stricken all her family. At the last she was sustained on nothing but a little port wine. She had written to her best friend not long before, "I'll be wild Betsy to the last." The night of her death, January 4, 1821, she began the prayers for the dying herself, and one of the sisters, knowing that she loved French, prayed the Gloria and the Magnificent in French with her. The spirited young woman who had wanted only to marry a handsome man, be a happy wife, and raise a pretty family, had had adventures beyond her wildest dreams. Loving by nature, she grew 1n faith and hope because of trial, not in spite of it. And with each trial God revealed resources, strength, and courage she did not know she possessed. We call it coping-and we need a patron saint for coping.

Taken from "The Saint Book" by Mary Reed Newland published by The Seabury Press, New York 1979.

Elizabeth Ann Seton
Foundress and Educator
Born August 28, 1774(1774-08-28), New York City
Died January 4, 1821 (aged 46), Emmitsburg, Maryland
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified March 17, 1963 by Pope John XXIII
Canonized September 14, 1975 by Pope Paul VI
Feast January 4
Patronage Catholic Schools; Shreveport, Louisiana; and the State of Maryland
Saints Portal
Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton (August 28, 1774 – January 4, 1821) was the first native-born United States citizen to be canonized.


Site where she once lived in New York City (at 7 State Street) is now a shrine in her honor.She was born to the prominent Bayley family of New York City, and raised in the Episcopal Church. At the age of nineteen, she married William Magee Seton, a wealthy business man. Five children were born to the marriage, which ended with her husband's death in 1803, shortly after becoming bankrupt. Two years later she converted to Roman Catholicism, on March 14, 1805. One of her half-nephews, James Roosevelt Bayley, would later become Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Owing to her conversion she lost the support of her friends and family. After some trying and difficult years, Elizabeth was able to establish a community in Emmitsburg, Maryland dedicated to the care for the children of the poor. This was the first religious community of apostolic women founded in the United States. The remainder of her life was spent in leading and developing the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph's which she had founded, along with the Sulpician priests of Baltimore. Today six independent religious communities trace their roots to the humble beginnings of the Sisters of Charity in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

She was described as a charming and cultured lady. Her connections to New York society and the accompanying social pressures to leave the life she had created for herself did not deter her from embracing her religious vocation and charitable mission. She established St. Joseph's Academy and Free School in order to educate young girls to live by religious values. The greatest difficulties she faced were actually internal, stemming from misunderstandings, interpersonal conflicts, and the deaths of two daughters, her loved ones, and young sisters in community. She died of tuberculosis at the age of 46 in St. Joseph's House (the White House), Emmitsburg.

Legacy of Charity
Elizabeth Seton helped found the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children, New York City's first private charity organization. In 1810, Seton established Saint Joseph's Academy and Free School in Emmitsburg, Maryland, a school dedicated to the education of Catholic girls, at the invitation of Samuel Sutherland Cooper. Cooper was a wealthy convert and seminarian who knew of the Catholic settlement near Emmitsburg and the newly established Mount St. Mary's College and Seminary, being begun by Father John Dubois and the Sulpicians. Dubois would later become Bishop of New York. St. Joseph's Academy developed into Saint Joseph College which closed in 1973.

Elizabeth founded the first religious community of apostolic women of the United States, the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph's, in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Dedicated to following the will of God, Elizabeth Ann had a deep devotion to the Eucharist, Sacred Scripture, and the Virgin Mary. The 23rd Psalm was her favorite prayer throughout her life. She was a woman of prayer and service who embraced the apostolic spirituality of Saint Louise de Marillac and Saint Vincent de Paul.

"We must pray literally without ceasing—without ceasing—in every occurrence and employment of our lives . . . that prayer of the heart which is independent of place or situation, or which is rather a habit of lifting up the heart to God as in a constant communication with Him." Elizabeth Ann Seton.

On December 18, 1959, Elizabeth was declared Venerable by the Sacred Congregation of the Catholic Church. She was beatified by Pope John XXIII on March 17, 1963, and canonized by Pope Paul VI on September 14, 1975, making her the first native-born United States citizen to be canonized. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is popularly considered a patron saint of Catholic schools. Her feast day is January 4. Her name appears on the front doors to St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York, describing her as a "Daughter of New York". Her legacy of charity lives on in her spiritual daughters who collaborate through the Sisters of Charity Federation. The National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Maryland, is open to the public.

Mother Seton School, a Catholic elementary school in Emmitsburg, Maryland, traces its roots directly to St. Joseph's Academy and Free School, founded by St. Elizabeth Ann in 1810. There is also a Catholic homeschooling program called Seton Home Study School. A Catholic home-school support center called Living Saints Tutorial Program in New Manila, Quezon City, specializes in assisting students in the Philippines who are using the Seton Home School Study curriculum.

Several schools have been named for Seton:

Seton Hall Preparatory School in West Orange, NJ
Seton La Salle High School in Pittsburgh, PA
College of Saint Elizabeth and Academy of Saint Elizabeth both on the same campus in the Morris Township, New Jersey
Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey
Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School in Keller, Texas
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Grade School in Carnegie, Pennsylvania
Elizabeth Ann Seton School in Nepean, Ontario
Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg, Maryland
Seton Catholic High School in Chandler, Arizona
Seton Catholic Central School in Plattsburgh, New York
Elizabeth Ann Seton School in Shrub Oak, New York
Seton Keough High School in Baltimore, Maryland (formerly Seton High School and Archbishop Keough High School which merged in 1988)
Seton Catholic Elementary School and Seton Catholic High School in Richmond, Indiana
Seton Catholic College Hilton, Western Australia (formerly Saint Brendons College and Emillia De Viliar College which merged in 1990)
Elizabeth Seton School - Main in Las Piñas City, Philippines
Elizabeth Seton School - South in Imus, Cavite, Philippines.
Seton High School (Cincinnati, Ohio)- Price Hill neighborhood of Cincinnati, OH (formerly Mount St. Vincent Academy, dedicated to Seton in 1927)
Mother Seton Regional High School in Clark, New Jersey
Seton College [1]in ,Mt. Gravatt East, Queensland, Australia