Carroll Gardens

Landmarks Preservation Commission takes a step toward protecting historic Carroll Gardens kindergarten from demolition

April 6, 2018 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Landmarks Preservation Commission will consider calendaring 236 (at right) and 238 President St. for landmark designation. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan

There’s encouraging news for Carroll Gardens residents who are campaigning to save Brooklyn’s first freestanding free kindergarten from being torn down and replaced with a condo building.

It’s on the docket at the city Landmarks Preservation Commission.

At a public meeting on Tuesday, April 10, the commission will vote on whether to calendar 236 President St. — the building threatened with imminent demolition — and adjacent 238 President St. for landmark designation consideration.

A “yes” vote by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) would be a step toward possibly granting protected landmark status to the two properties.

Also, because it’s illegal to demolish buildings that have been calendared, a “yes” vote would afford the former kindergarten an immediate temporary reprieve from the wrecking ball.

“We’re excited to bring 236 and 238 President St., or the former Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten and Brooklyn Deaconess Home of the Methodist Episcopal Church, before the commission for consideration,” LPC Chairwoman Meenakshi Srinivasan said.

“Together, these buildings represent the establishment of kindergartens and immigrant welfare in Brooklyn.”

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A kindergarten to honor Elmira Christian’s late husband    

The kindergarten, which has been used as a private home since the 1970s, is being sold to developer Avo Construction.

One of the firm’s executives told Carroll Gardens residents about its demolition and condo-construction  plans.

In 1897, neighborhood resident Elmira Christian constructed the kindergarten to honor her late husband, who died on his way home from a prayer meeting.

Architecture firm Hough & Duell designed the French Renaissance-style kindergarten building.

Elmira Christian built it on the 75-foot-wide lot of 238 President St., which was an 1850s Anglo-Italian brick mansion she donated to the Methodist Episcopal Church.   

The Methodists used 238 President St. to house deaconesses, who were the 1890s equivalent of social workers.

Today 238 President St. is a co-op building.

Its present-day residents were elated to hear that the LPC has scheduled a calendaring vote.

“These two beautiful buildings represent part of the rich cultural fabric of our beloved Carroll Gardens neighborhood, the borough of Brooklyn and New York City,” Jim Protos of 238 President Tenants Corp. said.

“And we are thrilled that the Landmarks Preservation Commission has heard the many supporters who have voiced their desire to preserve them.”

More than 2,000 letters and emails have been sent to Srinivasan or elected officials supporting the landmarking of 236 and 238 President St.

City Councilmember Brad Lander’s office has played a major role in the neighborhood campaign to win landmark protection for the two buildings.

The LPC’s scheduled calendaring vote is “great news,” Lander said.

“A historic treasure of the Carroll Gardens community is being saved,” he said.

“Thanks to LPC Chair Srinivasan, neighborhood leaders, preservation activists, Joan Baez and especially to the co-op owners of 238 President St. for leading the way in preserving this piece of our history.”

A letter of support from folk singer Joan Baez was read at a March pro-landmarking rally because her grandfather, the Rev. Alberto Baez, had lived at 238 President St. He was the minister of a Spanish-speaking congregation that used 236 President St. as a chapel.

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