Bedford-Stuyvesant

Bed-Stuy church nominated for national historic status

December 6, 2019 Lore Croghan
Welcome to Cornerstone Baptist Church, which has been nominated to the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle

A late 19th-century Bedford-Stuyvesant church has been honored with a nomination to the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

Cornerstone Baptist Church was the only Brooklyn property included among a dozen nominations that Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday.

Listing on the registers gives property owners access to grants and tax credits for renovation projects.

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The Lewis Avenue Congregational Church was the original occupant of the Romanesque Revival-style house of worship at 275 Lewis Ave. The property, which is on the corner of Madison Street, was sold in 1944 to Cornerstone Baptist Church, a congregation that has been in existence since 1917.

This part of Cornerstone Baptist Church was constructed in 1893. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle
This part of Cornerstone Baptist Church was constructed in 1893. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle

The social history of 275 Lewis Ave. is significant; it was built during Bed-Stuy’s peak period of residential development, nomination materials about the church say.

“The church is also significant in documenting the transition of the neighborhood from a majority white area into the most important African-American community in Brooklyn, as the church itself transitioned from a white Congregational church to an African-American Baptist church,” the nomination materials note.

Under the leadership of the late Rev. Sandy Ray, Cornerstone Baptist Church participated in the Civil Rights movement and took important steps to assist Bed-Stuy’s African-American community. It established a credit union in 1958. In 1965-1966, it constructed the Cornerstone Education Center. That building is also included in the State and National Registers of Historic Places nomination.

Columns inside Cornerstone Baptist Church’s sanctuary are painted to look like marble. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle
Columns inside Cornerstone Baptist Church’s sanctuary are painted to look like marble. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle

The church’s red-brick Sunday school and chapel, which is on Madison Street, was constructed in 1889. The yellow-brick, stone and terra cotta main church, which is on the corner of Lewis Avenue and Madison Street, was constructed in 1893.

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Prominent Brooklyn-born church architect Oscar Schutte Teale designed both parts of the property. He designed numerous New York City houses of worship.

Cornerstone Baptist Church’s sanctuary is stunning. An organ that was installed when the church was constructed stands behind the altar.

There are 18 rows of wooden pews on the main floor of Cornerstone Baptist Church’s sanctuary. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle
There are 18 rows of wooden pews on the main floor of Cornerstone Baptist Church’s sanctuary. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle

The ribs of the barrel-vaulted ceiling are made of painted and gilded wood, and Doric columns along the side of the sanctuary are brightly painted to look like marble.

There are 18 rows of wooden pews on the main floor of the sanctuary, and a big balcony extending along three sides.

The balcony of Cornerstone Baptist Church’s sanctuary is beautiful. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle
The balcony of Cornerstone Baptist Church’s sanctuary is beautiful. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle

Cornerstone Baptist Church’s Senior Pastor, the Rev. Lawrence Aker, was traveling on Thursday and couldn’t be reached for comment about the historic registers nomination.

Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.


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