Ascension School began with the Church of the Ascension and NY Archbishop Corrigan’s decision to form a new parish in a portion of Holy Name Parish north of 101st Street in the autumn of 1885. This Upper West Side neighborhood, identified as Manhattan Valley, was located north of 96th Street and east of Broadway and expanding rapidly. The population boom at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century consisted predominantly of working-class Germans. The Lion Brewery, one of the area’s earliest landmarks, was built and run by Catholic Bavarians in 1857 and occupied six square city blocks from Central Park West to Amsterdam from 107th to 109th Streets.
Before the construction of Ascension Church, Sunday mass was held in the brewery basement. For Father Nicolas Reinhart, first rector of the Ascension Parish, his very first service was celebrated in the Lion Hall Park Building on 109th Street and only eight parishioners showed up! Soon after Father Reinhart, along with his assistant Father Uleof, began offering Sunday masses in the Chapel at the Home for the Aged of the Little Sisters of the Poor (135 West 106th Street). Attendance reached around 5,000. Furthermore, approximately 400 children were enrolled in the parish Sunday school, located in a small building used as a rectory at 228 West 104th Street.