Historic churches in Fort Greene, Boerum Hill receive sacred sites grants

May 25, 2022 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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The New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Sacred Sites program has awarded $75,000 for repairs to two historic Brooklyn churches, as part of a total of $271,250 given in grants to historic religious buildings throughout New York State.

The Conservancy, a non-profit organization dedicated to historic preservation, has donated $50,000 to the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene as well as $25,000 to Next Step Community Church within the historic Baptist Temple building in Boerum Hill.

“Our grants are important in maintaining historic religious institutions,” said Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy. “But our assistance also helps these institutions provide vital help to their communities. These recent grantees have food and outreach programs that reach more than 32,000 persons.”

The Lafayette Avenue Community Church, at 85 South Oxford St., is considered one of the finest early Romanesque Revival style church structures in Brooklyn, completed in 1862 using the designs of the architectural firm of Grimshaw & Morrill.

Founded by noted abolitionist Rev. Theodore Ledyard Cuyler, the congregation has a continuous history of championing political and social causes; in the mid-19th century it was the headquarters of the Brooklyn Abolition Movement. The Sacred Sites grant will help fund masonry work to waterproof and stabilize foundation walls and brick piers.

The congregation continues in its social justice roots, reaching more than 3,500 people a year with activities and partnerships such as the Irondale Theater Center, the Business Outreach Center Network (BOCNet), the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Parent Cooperative Playgroup, the Audre Lorde Project (an organization for LGBT people of color) and more.

It also presents performances and concerts by local artists and performing-arts organizations. Among these are the Brooklyn Jazz Consortium, the Brooklyn Contemporary Chorus, Brooklyn Conservatory Chorale, Brooklyn Jazz Orchestra, and the Ithaca Opera Company, along with the congregation’s own Inspirational Ensemble and Jazz Vespers services.

Next Step Community Church at 360 Schermerhorn St. was known for most of the recent past as the Baptist Temple and was organized as First Baptist Church. The church, Brooklyn’s oldest Baptist Congregation, completed the building in 1895. The sanctuary is a classic example of the “Akron Plan” popularized in the late 19th century by prolific Akron-based architect George Kramer.

In 2010, an electrical fire damaged the roof and the sanctuary. Despite this, the congregation reaches over 1,000 people outside of its membership with activities such as a weekly food pantry and feeding program; diaper, formula, and clothing distribution; recovery meetings; volunteer tax preparation and social service outreach; hygiene kits and showers and an annual Thanksgiving banquet. It also serves as a physical address for homeless neighbors to receive mail.

The Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene, known for its advocacy of various political and social causes. Photo courtesy of New York Landmarks Conservancy

The Sacred Sites Program provides congregations with matching grants for planning and implementing exterior restoration projects, along with technical assistance and workshops. Since 1986, the program has pledged 1,588 grants totaling over $15.2 million to 836 religious institutions statewide.

The New York Landmarks Conservancy has led the effort to preserve and protect New York City’s architectural legacy for nearly 50 years. Since its founding, the Conservancy has loaned and granted more than $54 million. The Conservancy has also offered countless hours of pro bono technical advice to building owners, both nonprofit organizations and individuals.

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