Brooklyn Boro

Take a stroll to Queens from Downtown Brooklyn, part three

Eye on Real Estate: You'll see a 'prince's' church and a brewer's mansion

November 7, 2018 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
There's so much architectural eye candy on Willoughby Avenue — for instance, August Grill House. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan
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It starts with a Shake Shack and ends with a cemetery.

How can you resist?

If you want to walk to Queens from Downtown Brooklyn, Willoughby’s a fine way to go.

For part of your stroll, you’ll notice this photogenic thoroughfare is called Willoughby Street — which begins as a pedestrian plaza alongside the 409 Fulton St. Shake Shack. On the far side of Fort Greene Park, Willoughby Street becomes Willoughby Avenue.

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Eye-catching new apartment towers and landmarked houses line Willoughby Street/Avenue. It slices through Clinton Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick.

We split our story of our walk into three parts so we could show you as many photos as possible. This is the final installment, Part Three.

Development planned at St. John the Baptist site

The Prince of American Catholic Architects left an impressive legacy.

Revered 19th-century architect Patrick Charles Keely designed an estimated 700 religious buildings in his long career.

One of the Irish immigrant’s finest creations is St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church on Willoughby Avenue in Bed-Stuy. The Romanesque-style granite beauty’s cornerstone was laid in 1888.

The years have not been kind to St. John the Baptist. These days, Masses are celebrated in a small chapel that has been carved out of the church’s sanctuary. The rest of the church’s interior is open only on special occasions.  

The church property at 75 Lewis Ave. also includes a mammoth building that housed St. John’s College for many decades, until that institution moved to Queens.

The Vincentian Fathers established the parish and the college. Their name is inscribed on a Lewis Avenue building facade.

According to a 2015 DNAinfo story, Mike Kohn’s Alliance Private Capital Group plans to convert the portion of the property that had been St. John’s College into a 120-unit apartment building.

We looked at city Finance Department records and found a memorandum of lease Kohn and church rep Paul A. Michels signed. The lease, which began in March 2014, has an initial 49-year term plus two renewal options, each 25 years long.

If reading this gives you a sense of deja vu, it’s because a church mentioned in Part Two of this story is also planning residential development on part of its property.

As for St. John the Baptist, the church and Alliance Private Capital Group jointly applied to the city Board of Standards and Appeals for a waiver so the developer wouldn’t have to build 60 parking spots.

In May, the board dismissed the waiver application.

A wedge-shaped apartment building  

As you continue your Willoughby Avenue stroll, you’ll soon see a recently constructed, wedged-shaped rental-apartment building beside the overhead train tracks on Broadway.

Its addresses are 1000 Broadway and 865 Willoughby Ave.

Yoel Goldman is a member of the LLC that did the development — and bought the site from the Rose of Sharon Church of Christ Disciples of Christ Inc. for $1,237,500 in 2013, Finance Department records show.  

Goldman is a Brooklyn real estate investor and developer whose firm is called All Year Management


Long live Theobald Engelhardt

After you cross Broadway, you’re in Bushwick. At the end of the first Willoughby Avenue block in the neighborhood, you’ll find landmarked Catherina Lipsius House at 670 Bushwick Ave.

Lipsius and her family owned a brewery in the area. Her American Round-Arched-style mansion, built in 1889 and 1890, has a mansard roof and a skinny rounded turret topped by a pointy roof like a witch’s hat.

The red-brick house is trimmed with stone and terra cotta.

Theobald Engelhardt designed Catherina Lipsius House.

The Brooklyn-born, Cooper Union-educated son of German immigrants was the architect for numerous Brooklyn mansions, churches and industrial buildings.


A statue with a Hollywood actress’ face   

Across the street from Catherina Lipsius House, there’s a tiny city park called the Freedom Triangle. A stunning bronze World War I memorial statue graces the .004-acre greenspace.

The statue designed by sculptor Pietro Montana is called Victory with Peace. It was erected in 1921.

It’s an early 20th-century version of Nike, the classical Greek winged goddess — with a Hollywood actress’ face.

The actress, Claudia Deloney, was a friend of more famous movie star Gloria Swanson, the city Parks Department’s website says.

Once you walk past the Freedom Triangle, Willoughby Avenue crosses Myrtle Avenue, which, like Broadway, has overhanging train tracks.

The first thing you’ll see is Charles Place, a picturesque dead-end street.

On one side of it, there’s wedge-shaped 1215 Myrtle Ave., where a bar called Birdy’s is located.

On the other, there’s 941 Willoughby Ave., a mural-covered brick rowhouse where coffee shop Little Skips can be found.


A park named after a Bushwick activist

Modern apartment buildings and old-fashioned houses mingle on the next several blocks.

Iglesia San Jose Patron has eye-popping murals with Biblical figures on walls surrounding a parking lot.

Willoughby Avenue temporarily disappears at Knickerbocker Avenue because that’s where Maria Hernandez Park is located. The City Council named this greenspace in 1989 for a Bushwick activist who fought to get drug traffickers off the streets of her neighborhood — and was shot dead.

Willoughby Avenue resumes on the far side of the park, which is bordered by Irving Avenue. There are beautiful rowhouses on this corner.


Willoughby Avenue ends at a cemetery  

When you continue strolling, there’s an especially fine-looking cluster of golden-brick rowhouses with windowsills arched like eyebrows on the corner of Wyckoff Avenue. The address is 1318-1328 Willoughby Ave.

As Finance Department records indicate, the property belongs to Wyckoff Heights Realty Inc., whose president is Solomon Jacobowitz. In 2006, this entity paid $4.8 million for a package of buildings on Wyckoff and Willoughby avenues that includes 1318-1328 Willoughby Ave.,  the records show.

On the final stretch of Willoughby Avenue, the terrain is hilly.

Willoughby Avenue’s last Brooklyn block runs between St. Nicholas and Cypress avenues. Then you cross Cypress Avenue, and you’re in Ridgewood, Queens.

Willoughby Avenue continues into Ridgewood for a couple blocks. It ends at Woodward Avenue, which borders Linden Hill United Methodist Cemetery.

The cemetery was founded in 1842 and is now non-sectarian, its website says.

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