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Father Fagan Park

Father Fagan Park

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This park commemorates four local heroes who perished in the face of fire, losing their lives that others might live. Born in Rio de Janiero, Father Richard Fagan (1911-1938) moved with his family to Boston, Massachusetts as a child and later lived in Brooklyn, New York. He studied with the Marist Brothers in Poughkeepsie and entered the Preparatory Seminary at Catskill in 1926. Three years later, he graduated from St. Anthony’s Seraphic Seminary and entered the Novitiate in Pittsburgh. In 1932 he came to St. Francis Seraphic Seminary and was ordained a Franciscan priest in 1935. Father Fagan was called to duty at St. Anthony’s Church in 1936 and lived at the rectory at 151 Thompson Street.

The rectory caught fire in the early morning of November 4, 1938. Father Fagan escaped and then twice reentered the burning building—first to rescue Father Louis Vitale, and again to save Father Bonaventure Pons. Trapped in the rectory and badly burned, Father Fagan leaped through a window to the roof of the Settlement House a floor below. He was found and brought to Columbus Hospital, where he died on November 9, 1938 at the age of twenty-seven. To describe Father Fagan’s heroic life and heroic death, members of his church quote the Book of John: "There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends" (John 15: 13).

In 1994 another deadly fire stunned the neighborhood. On the night of March 28, Ladder Company 5 and Engine Company 24 of the Fire Department of New York responded to a blaze at 62 Watts Street. While operating on the second floor landing, Captain John J. Drennan (1945-1994) and Firefighters James F. Young (1963-1994) and Christopher J. Siedenburg (1969-1994) were trapped in a sudden flashover from the burning apartment beneath them. Firefighter Young was killed almost instantly. Firefighter Siedenburg died the next day, and Captain Drennan died six weeks later.

Located at the Avenue of the Americas, Spring Street, and Prince Street, this sitting area was one of several wedge-shaped plazas developed when Sixth Avenue was extended south of Carmine Street in the mid-1920s. It was named in memory of Father Fagan by local law in 1941 and was one of several properties along Sixth Avenue and West Houston Street improved and rehabilitated by Parks in 1960.

In 1994 three Callery Pear trees were planted, and three bronze plaques were installed on the northwest corner of the parcel, in memory of the three firefighters who sacrificed their lives in the Watts Street blaze. Neighborhood residents and members of the St. Anthony’s Helping Hands group help to maintain and to beautify the park.

Park Information

Directions to Father Fagan Park

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