The period 1825 to 1853 was a tumultuous time below Canal Street in the downtown area of Manhattan. During this time, at least two cholera outbreaks occurred, as well as the Great Fire of 1835 that destroyed entire neighborhoods. Upwardly mobile Protestants were leaving the area for safer communities up North. And, of course, a tremendous influx of poor Catholic immigrants occurred from Ireland beginning around 1845.
During the time of these cataclysmic events, the parish Church of the Transfiguration moved from #33 Ann Street to #45 Ann Street to #45 Chambers Street and finally to #29 Mott Street.
When the founder of The Church of the Transfiguration parish, Father Félix Varela, retired for health reasons, he left the New York parish in the hands of his assistant, Father John McClellan. Father Mc Clellan needed a larger church. He sold the Transfiguration church building on Chambers Street and bought the Zion Protestant Episcopal Church on Mott Street. In 1853, Bishop John Hughes dedicated and named this building The Church of the Transfiguration.
In 1868, Henry Engelbert designed additions to the church, including the bell tower. In 1966, the church was designated a New York City landmark. The church, built in 1801 in the Georgian style of architecture, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Today, The Church of the Transfiguration is a parish of the Archdiocese of New York and the pastor is a Maryknoll priest. The Church serves an almost entirely Chinese congregation with masses offered in English, Cantonese and Mandarin. Transfiguration Catholic School, founded in 1832, is open to English speaking children of all religions.