Church of St. Malachy is located on West 49th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, St. The church is named for the Irish monk (also known as Maolmhaodag Uí Morgair) who became bishop of Armagh in the twelfth century.
The Roman Catholic parish of St. Malachy was established in 1902 to serve residents and workers in the western midtown area.
On May 3, 1903, the cornerstone was laid for the basement church. For the first two decades the worshipers at the church were traditional, working class congregants.
In the 19th century, the fashionable playhouses were centered toward the south near Madison Square. During the decade of the 1920s the demand for tickets led to a surge in theatre construction. During the 1927-28 season, over 260 productions debuted on Broadway and the Theater District started to move uptown into the area where the church is located.
To answer the needs of actors, dancers and musicians the pastor of the church, Monsignor Edward F. Leonard, had the Chapel of St. Genesius, the patron saint of actors—commonly called the "Actors' Chapel"--constructed below the main church in 1920. Archbishop of New York gave a special permission for Masses to be celebrated there at 4 A.M. (which was banned by canon law at the time).
St. Malachy's has been home to many notable actors: Douglas Fairbanks married Joan Crawford at St. Malachy's. Thousands jammed West 49th Street outside the church in final tribute to Rudolph Valentino.
As late as 1968, over 16,000 people attended St. Malachy's each month, and on opening nights many in show business came to light candles for the success of their shows.
In the 1970's the area began to deteriorate. The night clubs closed. Legitimate businesses moved away only to be replaced with porno shops and drug dealers and prostitution was rampant and the Church was occasionally vandalized. It was not a place a person would like to wander around late at night, especially after seeing a Broadway play.
Now Theater District is the entertainment hub of the city, and possibly the entire nation. This area actually contains more than just theaters. Restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, theatrical agencies, and recording studies are also located conveniently within close proximity to the Broadway theaters.
In addition to its religious and community services, the church also now offers musical concerts including organ recitals on the Paul Creston Memorial Pipe Organ; instrumental, choral, opera, chamber, symphonic, and Broadway performances; and classical and jazz performed by the Broadway Chamber Players, comprised of Broadway pit musicians who are members of the parish.