One mystery solved

25 Oct

Thanks to the sharp eye of my brother Thomas Michael (our beloved Tim), the mystery of where Freda Vanderdonck and Theodore Jansen were married in New York has been solved.  Tim, who as an executive for a title insurance company “looks at documents for a living,” spotted the name of the Rev. Joh. Rueland on the seal of the marriage certificate.   With a little research on the Internet, Tim discovered that Father Reuland was a founder of Leo House, an institution which helped German-speaking Catholic immigrants when they landed in New York.

According to the records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, Vol. 16, Leo House was an offshoot of the St. Raphael Society, “an international  society established for the purposes of  safeguarding the interests of Catholic immigrants from the continent of Europe.”  The organization’s work in New York was done through Leo House,  named in honor of the Golden Jubilee of Pope Leo XIII.  This hospice provided many services for the immigrant, including lodging.  The original building was located in lower Manhattan, near Castle Garden, where ships from Europe docked. (This was before Ellis Island came into use for immigration.)

Leo House opened in 1889, under the direction of the Rev. John Reuland, who had been brought from Germany to do this missionary work.  The facilities included a kitchen, dining room, sleeping rooms, and a chapel.

To quote the Records:

This little chapel, decorated in the Gothic style throughout, is quite attractive.  All its furniture, the altar, the confessionals, the baptismal font, the stations of the cross, etc., were donated by friends of the institution. In this chapel the immigrants upon their arrival in America can attend Mass and have the opportunity to receive the Sacraments, thus preparing and strengthening themselves for their work in the New World.

For more information on Leo House, visit

There you will find a photo of the original Leo Haus, as well as a photo of the Rev. Reuland, and a good description of what life was like for immigrants arriving in New York City in the 1890s.

Leo House survives to this day as a hostel for travelers.  Its current incarnation is on West 23rd Street, between 9th and 10th avenues.  It serves as a retreat house, but also as an inexpensive, clean, safe place to stay in the city.  At a charge of about $100 per night, it is apparently booked months in advance.  For an older view of the present location, I am again indebted to Tim.  Thanks to cousin Joseph A. for additional research.

Leo House


Posted by on October 25, 2009 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , ,

2 responses to “One mystery solved

  1. Thomas M. Ryan

    October 26, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Is it Reuland or Rueland?

  2. Margaret

    October 26, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    It’s Reuland. How much longer do you think I can get away with blaming jet lag? I’ll fix the body of the post. Thanks.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: