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The Irish in New York in 100 photos (from chipper vans to Duane Reade)

An Irish student is documenting 100 symbols in the city which are associated with Ireland. Here’s what she has found so far.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

WHEN YOU THINK of Irish people in New York, the first images that spring to mind are probably things like police officers, Oirish pubs, and a giant parade on St Patrick’s Day.

The reality, as is always the case with emigration, is more complex.

Student Olivia Barry, who is from Rathgar in Dublin and studying at the School of Visual Arts in New York, has begun a project to document 100 symbols associated with the Irish in the city.

Partly this is about her own identity as an Irish person in NYC. But it’s also about what Irish people, who make up 5 per cent of the city’s population, have brought to one of the biggest cities in the world.

“I think it could be easy to just take 100 photos of Irish pubs –  no problem – in New York, but another aim for me is to show that there is a lot more the Irish have added, and are still adding, to the history and culture of New York,” she told 

“I was nervous beginning the project that I might run out of ideas to include, but as I continue to research and speak with people, I discover more and more examples”.

As well as the obvious symbols, Barry has also found a lesser-known seam of Irish history in the city – the founder of Methodism in America, Philip Embury, came from Limerick, while the pioneer of Presbyterianism in the US, Francis Makemie was from Donegal. She also found Jewish people from Dublin formed the Loyal Yiddish Sons of Erin.

“It’s not just the more well-known history of Irish Catholic America, but Irish people have contributed in many other ways,” she says.

As well as mixing the well-known and the more obscure, she is also trying to find a balance between the old and the new. “I am also learning about the experiences of my fellow young Irish people living in New York, a very well-educated group, and very different from their forebears arriving on immigrant ships”.

Sometimes she’ll take a photograph a day, while other times she’ll store some up.

“I try to fit it in around my classes and at weekends, but typically if I need to go somewhere that’s a bit out in the other boroughs, such as The Bronx or Queens, I will try to take as many relevant and interesting photos as I can that day”.

So far she is more than half-way through the project; the most recent post, number 54 out of 100, is the Methodist Church in Lower Manhattan, set up by a German-Irish emigrant.

“I have a lot more to include,” she says “but feedback and suggestions are always welcome…”.

Some of the photographs Olivia has taken so far as part of the project with her captions: 

Number 23/100: The Chipper Truck, Woodlawn, Bronx


Based in the Irish community of Woodlawn in the Bronx, this food truck serves traditional Irish comfort food, from an Irish breakfast to proper ‘chipper’ chips. The truck was a finalist in the 2013 NYC Vendy Awards.

Number 50/100: Duane Reade Store, Duane Street and Broadway

Duane Reade

The ubiquitous Duane Reade chain of pharmacies was founded in 1960, beginning with a warehouse located on Duane and Reade Streets on Broadway.

Duane Street is named after James Duane, born in 1733, son of Anthony Duane from Galway (who had first come to New York as an officer in the Royal Navy in 1698). James Duane was the 44th Mayor of New York. In 1789, he was named by George Washington as the first judge of the United States District Court for New York. He died in 1797.

Number 8/100: Tom, Carriage Driver, Central Park


Many of Central Park’s carriage drivers emigrated from Ireland and proudly display both Irish and American flags.

Number 32/100: Enignum Canopy Bed, 2013, Collective 2 Design Fair, Moynihan Station


This piece is by Joseph Walsh, an Irish designer and furniture maker. He founded his studio and workshop in 1999 in Cork.

Collective was launched last year to provide a new commercial and educational platform for vintage and contemporary design in New York City.

Number 41/100: Emerald Isle Immigration Center, Katonah Avenue, Woodlawn, the Bronx


Founded in 1988, the Center assists Irish immigrants living in New York.

Number 26/100: Colm Tóibín, The Grand Hall, Cooper Union


Irish novelist, playwright and critic Colm Tóibín – best-selling author of The Master, Brooklyn and The Testament of Mary – sits on stage following his delivery of the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture at the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature.

Tóibín will serve as Chairman of the festival beginning in 2015, succeeding Salman Rushdie who founded it in 2005.

Number 19/100: Duffy Square, Times Square


Named after Chaplain Francis Duffy, of the Fighting 69th Infantry Regiment, whose soldiers were largely drawn from the city’s Irish-American and immigrant population.

Number 44/100: James Connolly spoke at Cooper Hall on his inaugural visit to New York in 1902


James Connolly, inspirational labour leader and patrio (born in Edinburgh in 1868 to Irish parents), emigrated to the US in 1903 after his 1902 visit.

He moved to New York City and worked as an organiser for the newly-formed International Workers of the World (IWW,  popularly known as the ‘Wobblies’, which are still in existence.) Amongst others, they organise workers at Starbucks. Connolly worked for the IWW as a full time organiser.

He returned to Dublin in 1910, and later worked with those planning a rising to establish Irish independence. He was commander of the rebel forces in Dublin in the Easter Rising of 1916. Afterwards he was condemned to death, and badly wounded, was strapped to a chair and shot on 12 May 1916.

Number 11/100: De Valera plaque, Church of St Agnes


Eamon de Valera, 1916 veteran, founder of Fianna Fail, former Taoiseach and President of Ireland, was baptised here in 1882.

Number 15/10 - Celtic Cross, Irish Hunger Memorial

tumblr_n4ewc8YXo41txa74io1_500 (1)

Number 20/100: The Emigrant Savings Bank, Chambers Street


This bank was formed in 1850 by the Irish Emigrant Society. Still in business today, although the name, location and ownership have changed.

All photos © Olivia Barry 

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