Cultural Heritage Tours

A project of the ETHNIC HERITAGE CENTER

Lower Dixwell Tour

St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church

136 Dixwell Avenue

(current)

Interior of church. Courtesy Greater New Haven African American Society.

In 1942 Police Station 4 was converted to a church to become the home of the Blessed Martin de Porres Center, named for a Dominican lay brother of Black and Spanish heritage. In 1936, Rev. John McLaughlin, pastor of St. Brendan’s Church, corner of Ellsworth and Whalley Avenues, organized the Blessed Martin de Porres Confraternity for colored Catholics, at the request of Mrs. Della Gomes and with assistance from Mrs. Maud Leal. In 1949, the building was remodeled and included an addition which was named Blessed Martin de Porres Church (later St. Martin, patron saint of people of mixed ethnicity and of public health workers). The support provided to the community by St. Martin’s concurs with the ideals of its patron saint: a credit union was started in 1953 for low-income residents, a parochial school was opened in 1955, with classes taught by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, and the St. Martin Townhouses, consisting of 60 units, were built on Goffe St. A National Black Catholic Fraternal organization, the Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary, organized New Haven units, St. Martin de Porres Council and Court, in 1985. Under the leadership of Rev. Joseph Elko, St. Martin de Porres Church has continued its mission to serve the Dixwell Avenue area though its Breakfast Ministry, Thanksgiving distributions and Christmas toy drive for area school children.

  • Text source courtesy Greater New Haven African American Historical Society.

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