Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Churches receive Sacred Sites Grants for repair projects

August 19, 2014 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn Heights
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Two Brooklyn churches are among the 22 historic religious properties around New York State awarded Sacred Sites Grants from the New York Landmarks Conservancy. The grants total over $300,000.

Church of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity in Brooklyn is receiving a Sacred Sites Grant of $10,000 for brownstone façade and roof restoration at parish house wing, and the Bedford Central Presbyterian Church receives a Robert W. Wilson Sacred Sites Challenge Grant of $50,000 for roof replacement and tower masonry restoration.

“Religious institutions anchor their communities,” said Peg Breen, President of The New York Landmarks Conservancy. “They remind us of our history and provide vital social service and cultural programs today.”


Church of St. Ann & the Holy Trinity

The site visit to the Church of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity  confirmed that the brownstone façade is dangerously deteriorated, shedding large sections of projecting trim. Roofs are actively leaking and temporarily patched and tarped and wood windows are severely deteriorated. The large parish hall wing and formerly fully-leased community spaces are suffering from active leaks, plaster failure and weather infiltration as a result of the ongoing deterioration of the exterior envelope. The church has been working with preservation architect Lisa Easton. The exterior restoration has been competitively bid, and an experienced contractor selected. The original estimate for both exterior restoration and substantial interior renovations, for which full construction documents have been completed, was $3.25 million. However, bids came in at $6 million, so the church has had to limit initial scope to the exterior envelope at $1.8 million.

Scaffolding was erected in May.

The Church of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity (formerly Church of the Holy Trinity) is the most ambitious building designed by Minard Lafever and is considered the master work of his career. Construction was completed in 1847 on the Gothic Revival church, chapel and parish house funded by paper manufacturer John Bartow. At its completion, this was the largest church in Brooklyn. Although Lafever planned a spire, it was not until 1866 that a spire, designed by Patrick C. Keely—a contemporary of Lafever—was built. However, that spire was removed in 1905. A series of magnificent stained glass windows that were designed by William and John Bolton, lights the ornate interior. These windows, depicting the life of Christ, are among the earliest church windows produced in America.

A rectory was constructed immediately west of the church between 1895 and 1897. The ground floor of this building now serves as the parish hall.  The church was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

Following the departure of the St. Ann Center for Restoration and the Arts in 1999, the church complex continued to lease school, office, programming, rehearsal and concert space to a wide range of community service and arts groups. However, in 2013, full time tenants were moved out of the Parish House. Current plans call for leasing substantial portions of the renovated parish hall building to one nonprofit tenant, and it is also anticipated that music and performing arts tenants will return following renovations.


Bedford Central Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn

The Bedford Central Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn was awarded a Conservancy Robert W. Wilson Sacred Sites Challenge Grant of $50,000 for a roof replacement and tower masonry restoration project.  The project scope will be developed in consultation with New York City preservation architect Jeffrey Lydon. New flat roofs with new insulation and decking will be installed. The slate roofs on the conical corner tower and small spires surrounding this roof will be removed, new insulation installed and new slates installed which will match the existing shingles in kind. New copper finials and copper flashing will be installed. The existing yankee gutters in the sanctuary roof will be repaired. In addition, the existing metal-and-glass skylight on the northern flat roof will be replaced.

The bell tower masonry cornice and bulging brickwork above the church entrance in the tower will be removed, the steel substructure repaired and the masonry sections will be restored or replaced in kind. Stone parapet caps at the top of the tower will be repaired. The mortar joints throughout the tower will be repointed, window frames and sashes will be restored and doors and ironwork, on the building and on the site, will be repainted.

Bedford Central Presbyterian Church was established in 1894, with the merger of two former Congregational churches, Covenant and Bedford Congregational Church. The new congregation purchased a building at the corner of Nostrand Avenue and Dean Street in Crown Heights, with the intention of constructing a new church on site. In 1897, fundraising efforts were launched, six architects were invited to submit plans and New York City architect A.B. Jennings was selected.  

The step-gabled chapel was constructed first, at a cost of $21,000, and dedicated in 1898.  The parsonage wing, corner towers and main sanctuary were completed by 1909, and appear much as they did in a Brooklyn Eagle newspaper illustration in 1897. The church complex is of matching light-colored Roman brick, with limestone trim at the base and rusticated arched window openings, and limestone-like terra cotta trim at the upper gables and tower. A faceted, turreted, hexagonal tower with a conical slate roof houses a corner library, while a large square tower with a pyramidal roof and open loggia, and gable-roofed sanctuary with large rose window, dominate the Nostrand Avenue elevation.

The church interior reflects the influence of the Akron plan, with a slightly raked sanctuary auditorium featuring three large balconies, and a large chapel atrium connected to upper floor classrooms and the sanctuary auditorium via sliding oak partition walls. The building is largely intact at the exterior and interior.

Bedford Central’s ministries and community activities include an after-school program, a branch of New Life of New York City, Inc., with high-school students from the community. There is also a small day care center, Reach for the Stars Preschool. The church has established a community development corporation, known as Bedford Central Community Development Corporation, which sponsors home-ownership seminars. The church also houses a food pantry for needy community residents, and opens its space for block association meetings.

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