St. Elias, a landmarked Greenpoint church, is for rent

Eye On Real Estate

March 22, 2017 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This is landmarked St. Elias, a now-closed Greenpoint church that's on the rental market. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan
Share this:

Holy moly.

One of the most beautiful churches in North Brooklyn is on the rental market.

There’s 7,100 square feet of columnless space available at St. Elias (Greek Rite) Roman Catholic Church, a post-Civil War stunner located on a landmarked block that’s part of the Greenpoint Historic District.

There are also basement spaces that are 5,700 square feet and 4,000 square feet in size.

The church was sold to a real estate developer and vacated by its congregation a decade ago. It’s at 145-149 Kent St. near the corner of Manhattan Avenue.

The red-brick sanctuary has striped masonry around its arched doors. An eye-pleasing polygonal Sunday school is attached to the sanctuary.

We’ll tell you more about the church’s historic pedigree in a minute. First we’ll fill you in on who owns it.

In 2007 an LLC with Herbert Hirsch as manager paid $3.5 million for the church plus its next-door rectory, city Finance Department records indicate. The rectory building’s address is 143 Kent St.

The seller of both buildings was St. Elias (Greek Rite) Roman Catholic Church.

St. Elias had purchased the church in 1943 from the Reformed Dutch Church at Green Point, Finance Department records show. That’s not a typo. “Green Point” is spelled as two words in the deed.

William B. Ditmars designed the church

The Reformed Dutch Church had constructed the handsome house of worship in 1870.

The designer was Brooklyn architect William B. Ditmars, and the style is a combination of Early Romanesque Revival and High Victorian, the city Landmarks Preservation Commission’s 1982 designation report about the Greenpoint Historic District notes.

The design included a 175-foot spire that was never built, the designation report notes.

The Sunday school portion of the church was designed by a different architect, W. Wheeler Smith. It’s meant to look like a medieval Italian baptistry.

A historical footnote about the Reformed congregation that built 145-149 Kent St.: In an online posting, a commenter ID’d as DHM says that in 1937, the Rev. Benny Benson set fire to a Bible while in the church pulpit and said, “If nobody is going to read this thing, you might as well burn it,” or words to that effect.

Also, a footnote about the careful upkeep of the church building over the years: In 1992, the New York Times reported that St. Elias was honored by the Landmarks Preservation Commission for “sensitive repair and restoration” of the church’s façade and stained-glass windows.

And a footnote about the Greek Rite faith of the Kent Street church’s former owners: It had its origins in Carpatho-Rus, AKA Carpatho-Ruthenia, a region between present-day Slovakia and Ukraine. It sprang up because of ninth-century evangelization by Saints Cyril and Methodius from the Byzantine Church of Constantinople.

The expression “Greek Rite” is a reference to this faith’s origins in the Byzantine Church. The worshippers are Slavic, or the descendants of Slavic people.

Mickey Rourke gave it a look several years ago
Now, back to more worldly concerns.

The church building’s current owner, Herb Hirsch, is a developer with experience in converting religious buildings to residential use.

Hirsch Enterprises Inc. transformed the Romanesque Revival-style former Parish House of St. George’s Church in
Manhattan’s Stuyvesant Square District into The Abbey Condominium.
But Hirsch hasn’t done a residential conversion of St. Elias. Instead, at various times starting in 2008, he either offered it for sale or rent.

In 2010, after Hirsch advertised the church for sale as a “Live/Work Mansion” with a $7.1 million asking price, the
Wall Street Journal reported that celebrities including actor Mickey Rourke had checked out the property.

At that time, condo conversion was under consideration as an alternative if the church didn’t sell as a single-family home, the Journal reported. Interior upgrades including excavation in a basement and the addition of steel beams and concrete floors would have then cost $3.5 million to $4 million.

Two years later, Hirsch did make a sale — not of the church building, but of the former rectory at 143 Kent St.

Purchaser 143 Kent Street LLC paid $2.25 million for the rectory, with Jennifer Dudley signing the deed on the buyer’s behalf, Finance Department records indicate.  

The Queen Anne-style house was designed by architect Theobald Engelhardt in 1889.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment