Places that Matter

Spanish Camp (site of)

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Jim O'Grady
Jim O'Grady
Jim and Louisa Armour
Martha Cooper
Activist Dorothy Day's residence during the last decade of her life
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Place Matters Profile

Social reformer and Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day spent the last decade of her life living in a tiny, carpenter-built beach cottage in the community of Spanish Camp on Staten Island. Beginning in the 1920s, Day sought out the bucolic setting of the South Shore of Staten Island as a reprieve from her increasing disillusionment with life as a radical journalist in Greenwich Village. Her conversion to Catholicism in 1926 took places on the beach just south of her last home at Spanish Camp.

In 1932 Day co-founded the Catholic Worker, an ideological movement dedicated to serve the poor through urban house of hospitality, communal farms, and the Catholic Workers newspaper, a national voice for social responsibility, labor reform and pacifism. For Day, the Worker took the place of joining some already established religious order. However, she did, personally, follow the Counsels of Perfection, including poverty, in the sense of owning no personal property. We know from her autobiography and her essays that she lived in her own houses of hospitality side by side with the homeless, ate the same soup that she served them, and wore the same discarded clothes that she offered them.

Day's cottage was illegally demolished in February 2001. All the cottages in Spanish Camp have now been torn down by a developer.