Take a wintry stroll to Queens on Gates Avenue | Part Two
See old theatres, a beautiful bank and a Masonic lodge in Bed-Stuy and Bushwick.
Eye on Real Estate: You can walk from Clinton Hill all the way to Queens on Gates Avenue. You’ll see so much old-fashioned architectural eye candy along the way.
I recently tried doing this trek in a single day. But I got so involved in taking pictures of landmarked rowhouses and lovely churches in Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant that I only made it to the corner of Tompkins Avenue. I wrote about that initial stroll as Part One of this story.
The other day, I returned to Gates Avenue and resumed my walk through Bed-Stuy and Bushwick so I could write Part Two of this story, which you are reading now. I saw mammoth movie theaters that have been adaptively reused, historic churches, a bank and a Masonic lodge that were converted into apartment buildings and many blocks of NYCHA complexes.
The skies, for the most part, were gray but the buildings were beautiful.
Renovated low-income housing
On the first Gates Avenue blocks after you cross Tompkins Avenue, you will see two multi-building brick apartment complexes that belong to a retired Major League Baseball player’s company.
For the past 15 years, former Boston Red Sox, Anaheim Angels and New York Mets player Mo Vaughn has focused on renovating and managing low-income housing developments. Bleacher Report named him No. 8 on its 2011 list of the 20 greatest hitters in Red Sox franchise history.
He is the co-founder and co-managing director of Omni New York LLC.
Cornerstone Baptist Church
When you get to the intersection of Lewis Avenue, as you look down the avenue to your right you will notice a slim tower with a turret. It tops Cornerstone Baptist Church, which is a couple blocks away on the corner of Madison Street and Lewis Avenue.
Take a momentary detour for a closer look at this house of worship at 275 Lewis Ave., which was recently nominated for inclusion on the State and National Register of Historic Places.
The yellow-brick, stone and terra cotta main church that you glimpse from the corner of Gates and Lewis avenues was constructed in 1893. There’s also a red-brick Sunday school and chapel on the Madison Street side of the property. It was constructed in 1889.
Visitors are welcome to the church sanctuary, so step inside. Its barrel-vaulted ceiling has painted and gilded wood ribs. Painted Doric columns stand in rows on the ground floor and balcony. There are delicate stained-glass windows.
Brooklyn-born Oscar Schutte Teale was the architect.
As you backtrack up to Gates Avenue, you’ll see a handsome old-fashioned apartment building at 547 Madison St., which is right across the street from the church, and a row of lovely brownstones along Lewis Avenue.
Loew’s Gates Theatre
After you turn onto Gates Avenue, you’ll see New York City Housing Authority’s Stuyvesant Gardens I complex, which extends along the entire block from Lewis to Stuyvesant avenues and also from Stuyvesant Avenue nearly to the corner of Malcolm X Boulevard.
NYCHA complex Stuyvesant Gardens II stands on one corner of Malcolm X Boulevard.
On the other side of Malcolm X Boulevard, there are handsome rowhouses.
As you continue your walk, you’ll discover a beautiful row of brick houses with tall stoops and ornamental iron fences on Gates Avenue between Patchen and Ralph avenues.
Just past the corner of Ralph Avenue, there’s a massive brick commercial building with very few windows and a metal fire escape zigzagging up its facade. These are visual hints that this was once a movie theatre. The entrance is at 1340 Broadway.
On the sidewalk, a row of red metal lampposts with their light bulbs held by winged dragons was added by the property’s current occupant, Pilgrim Baptist Church.
This building was the Loew’s Gates Theatre, which opened in 1921 with the films “Alias Lady Fingers” starring Bert Lytell and “Hard Luck” starring Buster Keaton, the website Cinema Treasures says. There were vaudeville acts as well as film showings. The architect was Thomas Lamb, who designed many of New York City’s early movie houses. The Loew’s Gates ended its run as a movie theatre in 1977, Cinema Treasures says.
Roosevelt Savings Bank
If you need caffeine to fuel your walk, Cup of Brooklyn is located at 1071B Gates Ave. on the same block as the old Loew’s theatre.
On the opposite side of the street, you’ll see a Beaux-Arts building at 1024 Gates Ave. that was Roosevelt Savings Bank. (As is sometimes the case in Brooklyn, the addresses on opposite sides of the street don’t match up.)
It was built in 1906 and 1907 for Eastern District Savings Bank, which changed its name in 1920 to honor Theodore Roosevelt, architectural history expert Suzanne Spellen wrote in a 2012 Brownstoner story.
The designer was architecture firm Helmle, Huberty & Hudswell — which designed the iconic Prospect Park Boathouse.
A few years ago, developer Kai Construction built a rooftop addition and converted the savings bank into a rental-apartment complex called the Brooklyn-Roosevelt.
The Bushwick Theatre
Broadway is the dividing line between the neighborhoods of Bed-Stuy and Bushwick. Small shops line Broadway. Subway train tracks loom overhead.
Just up the block on Broadway, you find the Gates Avenue J and Z station. In the opposite direction, there’s a huge, white, wedge-shaped building a couple blocks away. You need to walk down the street and get a closer look at the lavish terra cotta ornamentation on it.
There are terra cotta cherubs holding musical instruments over the doors and windows of the eye-popping Beaux-Arts building at 1396 Broadway. There is also a band of massive terra cotta figures running beneath the roof of the building.
It currently houses the Brooklyn High School for Law and Technology.
It was originally a vaudeville house called the Bushwick Theatre, which was built in 1911. The architect was William McElfatrick. A posting on Cinema Treasures says that a year after it opened, the B.F. Keith vaudeville-theatre chain acquired it. And in 1930, it became an RKO movie theatre. It stopped operating as a movie theatre in 1969.
The Ridgewood Masonic Temple
After you double back to Gates Avenue and stroll into Bushwick, you will find the block between Broadway and Bushwick Avenue is lined with lovely old-fashioned rowhouses.
When you get to the corner of Bushwick Avenue, you’ll find a handsome landmarked building with the name “Ridgewood Masonic Temple” carved in stone above towering arched windows.
Don’t misunderstand. You haven’t actually arrived in Ridgewood. That’s what the buff-colored brick and rusticated stone building at 1054 Bushwick Ave. was called back when the Masons used it as a lodge. It was designed by architecture firm Koch & Wagner and built in 1919 and 1920.
The Masons moved out almost two decades ago. For a while, the property served as a venue for indie concerts and parties. In 2016, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the lodge’s residential conversion.
The Masonic lodge is the only Beaux-Arts building on Bushwick Avenue — which is lined with mansions, a couple of which are landmarked, that Brooklyn’s beer brewers and a lumber baron built. You really should take a detour and see the architectural eye candy on this avenue.
Evergreen Baptist Church
When you’re done getting an eyeful of Bushwick Avenue and return to your Gates Avenue stroll, you will pass a handsome row of limestone houses on the block between Bushwick and Evergreen avenues.
The brick rowhouses on the corner of Evergreen and Gates avenues have old-fashioned charm. El Aguila Mini Market occupies one of the storefronts if you still haven’t bought a cup of coffee and really do need one.
When you stand outside the market and look down Evergreen Avenue, you’ll notice a church spire a couple blocks away. You should take another momentary detour to go see it.
Evergreen Baptist Church is at 455 Evergreen Ave. on the corner of Woodbine Street.
Originally, this was the Second German Baptist Church, according to a posting on the website Novelty Theater that also says the designer was architecture firm Higgs & Gavigan. Construction began in 1900 on this house of worship.
Himalayan dumplings on the plaza
When you double back onto Gates Avenue, the next couple blocks are a mix of old-fashioned rowhouses and modern residential buildings.
On Knickerbocker Avenue near the corner of Gates Avenue, you’ll see FDNY Engine 277 Ladder 112’s spiffy modern firehouse.
At the corner of Gates and Irving avenues, there’s a building with street artists’ murals painted on it. One mural that’s especially great depicts a woman whose eyes are giant daisies. The artist is Dirt Cobain, a Los Angeles native whose work can be found in various spots in New York City.
Before you know it, you’ll reach the intersection of Myrtle Avenue, my favorite Bushwick retail corridor. There’s a White Castle just steps away, which is tempting.
After you cross Myrtle Avenue, Gates Avenue continues to the intersection of Wyckoff Avenue, which is blocked off to vehicular traffic to create a plaza in front of the Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues subway station.
There’s outdoor seating, which is a good thing even in cold weather. It gives you somewhere to sit down while you eat Himalayan dumplings called momos that one of the plaza’s food vendors sells. BTW, Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts both have shops on this block if you need (yet another) cup of coffee to drink with the dumplings.
Goodbye, Bushwick — hello, Ridgewood
When you’re done eating and return to Gates Avenue, you’ll find you’re near the Brooklyn-Queens border. In this part of Bushwick, the boundary between it and Ridgewood is St. Nicholas Avenue.
I feel pretty sure about this because I checked city Buildings Department records for the full addresses of two multi-family buildings located on opposite sides of St. Nicholas Avenue at the intersection of Gates Avenue.
The one at 310 St. Nicholas Ave. is in Brooklyn and has 11237 as its Zip Code, Buildings Department filings indicate.
The one at 311 St. Nicholas Ave. is in Queens and has 11385 as its Zip Code, the records show.
Gates Avenue continues into Ridgewood, which is a wonderful neighborhood.
If you’re not too full from eating momos, you might want to try Venezuelan street food at a Ridgewood restaurant called Cachapas y Mas, which is on Seneca Avenue near the corner of Gates Avenue.
Eye on Real Estate is veteran reporter Lore Croghan’s weekly column on Brooklyn’s built environment. Whether it’s old as Abraham Lincoln or so new it hasn’t topped out yet, if a building is eye-catching, Eye will show it to you.
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