St. Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church in Bushwick gets landmarked

It was on the Landmarks Preservation Commission's Backlog95 list

December 13, 2016 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Here's a glimpse of the dome of St. Barbara's Roman Catholic Church in Bushwick. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan
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Long live Bushwick’s new landmark!

On Tuesday, the city Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to designate St. Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church as an individual city landmark — despite the Diocese of Brooklyn’s opposition.

This means the century-old Spanish Mission Revival-style church, which has a dome and two 175-foot-tall towers, cannot be demolished or undergo exterior alteration without LPC approval.

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The vote was held at a public meeting at the agency’s Lower Manhattan headquarters.

St. Barbara’s was designed by architecture firm Helmle & Huberty and built in 1907-1910. The  parishioners of that era were German immigrants.

It was a Backlog95 property — one of 95 New York City properties that had languished on the LPC’s calendar for up to a half-century.

In November 2014, the commission decided to toss all the backlogged properties off its calendar. After an outcry from preservationists, the LPC changed course and set up an expedited process for deciding the 95 sites’ landmarking fates.     

On Tuesday, the commission dealt with the last remaining items on the Backlog95 list; St. Barbara’s was one of them.

The Bushwick church at 138 Bleecker St.— which is largely shrouded in scaffolding and construction netting — is made of yellow brick and white and cream terra cotta. Its second address is 299-307 Central Ave.

It is considered by some preservationists to be early 20th-century architect Frank Helmle’s masterpiece.

Other notable buildings he designed include the former Williamsburgh Trust Company, which is now known as Holy Trinity Cathedral-Ukrainian Orthodox Church — a  Backlog95 property that was designated as a city landmark this past summer.

Helmle also designed the Hotel Bossert in Brooklyn Heights and the Boathouse in Prospect Park.

St. Barbara’s style, which is also referred to as neo-Plateresque, was brought to the American Southwest and Mexico by early settlers from Spain. It is an unusual type of architecture for a church in the Northeastern United States.

In April, the city Buildings Department approved an application by the Diocese of Brooklyn to repair the masonry at St. Barbara’s, online records indicate.

At a special hearing held in October 2015, a rep for the Catholic Church said the Diocese of Brooklyn opposed the landmarking of its churches because it believes the cost of maintaining church properties according to the standards of landmarks regulations is “burdensome.”

At that hearing, preservationists spoke in favor of landmarking St. Barbara’s.

Church officials had also objected to the landmarking of St. Barbara’s in 1980, when the LPC held a public hearing about considering it for designation.


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