Catherine Post Ritter (1766 – 1828) was instrumental in founding the first church in Greenwich Village and was, by all accounts, a remarkable woman. Left a widow with seven children in 1811, Mrs. Ritter operated her late husband Peter’s Maiden Lane Jewelry business whilst raising her family and being an active member of her community.
On October 22, 1820, two days after the Feast of St. Luke, a small group of people met at her home on West Fourth and Little Jones Street to consider establishing an Episcopal Church of their own in the Village.
Catherine’s son-in-law, Don Alonzo Cushman secured the services of the first rector, the Reverend George Upfold and the Church of St. Luke in the Fields was born. The first services were held at Obadiah Parker’s Schoolhouse on Amos (now Tenth) Street and thereafter in a room over the Watchhouse of the State Prison at Hudson and Christopher Streets until the congregation broke ground at the current site on land ceded by Trinity Church in 1821. Clement Clarke Moore was the first church warden.
In her 1926 History of Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church in the City of New York 1820 – 1920, Penelope Tuttle described Catherine Ritter as “the moving spirit in the establishment of the Church.” The Vault Stone was dedicated to Catherine’s memory by her family after her death in 1828.