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Historic Fort Greene church gets needed $250K grant

Restoration effort vital to church, which dates to 1861

March 5, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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The historic Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene is one of only 16 churches in the U.S. to receive a $250,000 grant from the National Fund for Sacred Places. 

The National Fund, supported by the Lilly Endowment, is a program of Partners for Sacred Places in collaboration with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Since 2016, the National Fund has engaged 68 congregations from all across the country in their work. 

The congregation was founded in 1857, and the building was constructed in 1861-62. It was designed by Grimshaw & Morrill in the Early Romanesque Revival.

The church received this grant opportunity at the cusp of launching the next phase of a 22-year capital restoration effort: “Opening Doors: The Campaign for Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church.” 

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In this phase, the front façade and study tower, window surrounds and front doors will be restored and cleaned. To enable wheelchair access, an ADA-compliant ramp will be installed to the front entrance to better serve all the audiences who use the sanctuary. 

Water penetration, especially in the tower and front step area, plus over 100 years of subway vibration, has undermined the front basement wall, causing settling of the tower and damage to the interior staircase and the Narthex arch. 

The monumental 1893 Tiffany stained glass triptych, currently in poor condition, will also be removed and restored. The total project cost is  estimated to be $1,675,000.

For its grant awardees, the program provides a comprehensive package of services including training and technical support, a planning grant and funds of up to $250,000 in a 2-to-1 match for historic restoration projects. 

During the Civil War, LAPC’s first pastor, Rev. Theodore Ledyard Cuyler, pressured President Abraham Lincoln to move quickly to end slavery. In 1872, Rev. Cuyler invited Sarah Smiley, a Quaker preacher, to be the first woman ever to preach before a Presbyterian congregation. 

Today, the congregation is involved in criminal justice issues, immigration rights, the New Sanctuary Project and Black Lives Matter. It also houses the Irondale theater company, the Audre Lorde Project, the Business Outreach Center, the Parents Cooperative Playgroup and the Fort Greene Park Conservancy. 

Irondale Center Executive Director Terry Greiss said, “Preserving this historic building is crucial to the continued vitality and integrity of the Fort Greene community.”

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries has described LAPC’s sanctuary as “the revered ‘Town Hall’ space of Fort Greene.” 

And according to Bob Jaeger, President of Partners for Sacred Places, “Organizations like the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church have a true commitment to service, offer tremendous civic value to their community, and these congregations are well poised to grow and thrive in the future.”

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