Remembering you all today, your families and their concerns! Such is the heart of being a Mother and our Mother and Grandma McGinty taught us that with our annual trip to the church on Bushwick Avenue. I thank God and our dear Mother for her steadfast devotion to Our Lady and teaching us to always turn to Mary for her care and support. Her power to help us all no matter what we face, I cherish the memories of watching my grandmother’s constant support of our Mother in teaching us how important it is to support one another. I have the special joy of attending Mass each am where Grandma and Mother did on a daily basis years ago.
In 1897, the wealthy residents of Bushwick Avenue (then called the 5th Avenue of Brooklyn) donated a great deal of money towards the construction of the massive Our Lady of Lourdes church and adjoining schoolhouse; two buildings that remained cornerstones of the community for decades.
The next year, in 1898, the grotto was built into the corner of the school building.
Grottoes are small man-made caves, often created for ornamental or devotional purposes. Constructed out of marble, brick, and stone, the structure on Aberdeen was a replica of the cave in Lourdes, France that marks the site of a series of famous 19th century visions of the Virgin Mary — Our Lady of Lourdes.
“The construction of the Grotto was so precise,“ says Carol Podkrash, who runs the Our Lady of Lourdes Alumni Group on Facebook. “And it was beautiful, adorned with flowers and lights spotlighted on her.”
Brownstoner learned that on any given day, locals would stop by, say a prayer, and leave flowers at the foot of the religious icon.
“I grew up across the street from the school,” says former Bushwick resident Dey Vega, whose mother had been a teacher there. “The Grotto was a fixture in my old neighborhood for as long as I can remember. I’m very sad to see it get demolished.”
In 1976, arsonists torched the church and it had to be torn down. “The community was stunned,” says Podkrash. “Tears were running down everybody’s faces.” The schoolhouse was not affected by the blaze, and therefore, the grotto remained intact.