Crown Heights

Take a stroll through Weeksville (the neighborhood)

Eye on Real Estate: Weeksville Heritage Center is the heart and soul of the area.

July 3, 2019 Lore Croghan
Weeksville Heritage Center is the crown jewel of Weeksville the neighborhood. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Weeksville Heritage Center is a cultural jewel, a living reminder that an independent free black community thrived in pre-Civil War Brooklyn.

Its landmarked houses, powerful witnesses to history, have been on my mind in recent weeks as the center’s executives carried out an emergency CrowdRise funding campaign to keep the Crown Heights museum open.

The oldest of these houses on Hunterfly Road dates back to the 1840s.

On June 14, there was dramatic news: The city designated Weeksville Heritage Center as a member of the Cultural Institutions Group.

This was the first time in 20 years that a new member had been brought into the group. Membership affords a real shot at financial stability through unrestricted operating grants from the city Department of Cultural Affairs, which also pays the institutions’ heat, light and water bills.

The designation made Weeksville Heritage Center the first black Brooklyn institution on the group’s roster — which was a “huge honor,” the center’s President and Executive Director Rob Fields told me in an interview that day.

Ironworks near the community gardens

Weeksville’s got lots of beautiful old housing stock. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Weeksville’s got lots of beautiful old housing stock. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

So. Did you know Weeksville is used as a neighborhood name even today?

The City of New York includes it on its map of Community District 8, which Community Board 8 serves, along with North Crown Heights and Prospect Heights.

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Weeksville is located within the easternmost section of Crown Heights on the border of Brownsville.

Weeksville the neighborhood consists of the blocks surrounding Weeksville the museum, which is at 158 Buffalo Ave. If you start walking on Atlantic Avenue and stroll the streets parallel to it between Troy and Ralph avenues, you can’t go wrong.

These handsome rowhouses are on the corner of Ralph Avenue and Prospect Place. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
These handsome rowhouses are on the corner of Ralph Avenue and Prospect Place. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

One of the things you’ll see on a Weeksville walk is Imani Community Garden II. It’s on the corner of Pacific Street and Schenectady Avenue.

It’s the nearby neighbor of Imani Community Garden, which is the home of the chickens I recently photographed.

Nearby, there’s a metal sculpture hanging over the door of 1779-1781 Pacific St. The sculpture depicts six industrial workers.

This is the Piscopo & Nogara Iron Works.

This eye-catching sculpture’s on top of the Piscopo & Nogara Iron Works. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
This eye-catching sculpture’s on top of the Piscopo & Nogara Iron Works. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Nogara Group bought the site for $70,000 in 2006 and constructed the building, city Finance Department and Buildings Department records indicate.

Two fine firehouses

As you keep walking, soon you’ll find an old-fashioned firehouse at 1472 Bergen St. This is the Rescue Company No. 2 building, constructed in 1893.

There’s a painting on the garage door dedicated to the memory of Firefighter Louis J. Valentino Jr. He died in 1996 while searching for wounded firefighters during a blaze at an illegal chop shop in Flatlands.

On Rescue Company 2’s door, there’s a dedication to Firefighter Louis J. Valentino Jr. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
On Rescue Company 2’s door, there’s a dedication to Firefighter Louis J. Valentino Jr. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

As you know if spend time in Brooklyn’s waterfront neighborhoods, Louis J. Valentino Jr. Park and Pier in Red Hook is named for him. It’s a good place to go for views of the Statue of Liberty.

By the way, Rescue 2 has built itself a new firehouse on Sterling Street in Ocean Hill. The cast concrete and terra-cotta building is designed as a training facility, with features like a bridge, a manhole and a trench that simulates a subway tunnel.

But back to Weeksville. Further down Bergen Street, on the corner of Ralph Avenue, Engine 227’s eye-catching firehouse can be found.

This is Engine 227’s firehouse at 423-425 Ralph Ave. on the corner of Bergen Street. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
This is Engine 227’s firehouse at 423-425 Ralph Ave. on the corner of Bergen Street. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

A church that was a station on the Underground Railroad

The streets of Weeksville are dotted with beautiful churches.

For instance, there’s Berean Baptist Church at 1635 Bergen St.

Here’s a glimpse of Berean Baptist Church. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Here’s a glimpse of Berean Baptist Church. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

The portion of it that was built in 1894 stood in shadow the afternoon I took my Weeksville stroll. So instead of photographing it, I snapped a picture of the more modern portion of this house of worship, which was constructed in 1960.

The church was established in 1850 — and was a station on the Underground Railroad, its website says.

A second church that caught my eye was the Greater Bibleway Temple on the corner of Rochester Avenue and Lincoln Place. The late-afternoon sun lit up its pale brick facade.

This is the Greater Bibleway Temple. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
This is the Greater Bibleway Temple. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

The Bibleway Church has been located at this building since 1973, its website says.

Architectural history expert Suzanne Spellen said in a 2014 Brownstoner story that the stunning church at 261 Rochester Ave. was built as Temple Petach Tikvah in 1914 and 1915.

Architect E.M. Adelsohn designed the Greek Classical Revival-style building.

St. Mary’s Hospital is being turned into a nursing home

The Maynard Co-Ops at 1509 Bergen St. have eye-catching window bays. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
The Maynard Co-Ops at 1509 Bergen St. have eye-catching window bays. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

The day I took my stroll, athletes were busy at St. John’s Park, which is packed with playing fields. A colorful mural on the back wall of St. John’s Recreation Center brightened the scenery.

I didn’t go inside the venerable rec center, which has been in existence since 1956. But the city Parks Department’s website mentions there’s a swimming pool, which sounds pretty great this time of year.

These houses are located on Lincoln Place. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
These houses are located on Lincoln Place. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

I saw all kinds of lovely old-fashioned housing stock in Weeksville.

For example, there’s a hilly block on Lincoln Place between Buffalo and Ralph avenues that’s very picturesque.

And when I strolled down Prospect Place, I got an eyeful of a bright new facade on the mammoth building that was formerly St. Mary’s Hospital.

Centers Health Care is converting the seven-story building into a 281-bed nursing home, a 2016 project recommendation written by Borough President Eric Adams says.

The property, whose address is 170 Buffalo Ave., was the last Catholic hospital left in Brooklyn when it closed in 2005.

St. Mary’s Hospital is being turned into a nursing home. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
St. Mary’s Hospital is being turned into a nursing home. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

The building was constructed in the 1970s. Before that, St. Mary’s facility on this site had been built in the 1870s.

Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.

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