Building of the Day: 1138 Gates Avenue

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Former Eastern District Turn Verein, now Inglesia de Cristo Misionera, Inc.
Address: 1138 Gates Avenue, or 1051 Bushwick Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner of Gates and Bushwick Avenues
Neighborhood: Bushwick
Year Built: 1902
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Architect: Theobald Engelhardt
Other Buildings by Architect: Arion Hall, Ulmer Brewery, Perika Chocolate Factory, parts of Eberhard Faber Factory complex, mansions on Bushwick Avenue, and many, many more.
Landmarked: No, should be though.

The story: In 1901, the Eastern District Turn Verein bought the old frame Tuttle Mansion, on the corner of Bushwick and Gates, in the heart of Bushwick. The Turn Verein was a popular athletic and social society founded by German immigrants, who had brought the Turn to the United States when they immigrated here in the mid-19th century. It was started in the 1820’s by Otto Jahn, a German physical education specialist, and in many ways, our entire American sports education and recreational heritage springs from this tradition. The Turns also emphasized education and Americanization, offering classes in English, and other subjects. By the end of the 19th century, Turn Verein clubs had spread across the country, but the largest were in New York, and the Eastern District Turn was most important. The mansion needed work, and wasn’t large enough for what the Turn needed, so they turned to one of their members who happened to be one of the Eastern District’s most prolific German-American architects, Theobald Engelhardt.

You can’t throw a rock in Bushwick or parts of Williamsburg and Greenpoint without hitting an Englehardt building. He designed most of the breweries, factories, and churches in the area, as well as mansions, row houses, tenements and social clubs. He is responsible for hundreds of buildings. The Brooklyn-born son of a German immigrant builder, he was educated at the Williamsburg Turn Verein, then at Cooper Union, before embarking on an extremely successful architectural career that lasted over 50 years. He started out building breweries with his father, but soon branched out to every kind of building.

In May of 1902, the Builder’s Guide shows an entry saying: “Theobald Engelhardt has drawn plans for the extensive alterations to the frame residence building on the southwest corner of Bushwick and Gates Avenues. A gymnasium, swimming pool, bowling alleys and other appurtenances to a clubhouse will be installed. The Brooklyn ED Turn Verein is the owners, and the cost of the work will be about $60,000.” Vintage postcards from the era show the new additions flanking both sides of the old mansion.

Today, the mansion and the extension to the right of the photographs are gone, but the large structure on the corner still stands. It’s part of the new church that was built where the original mansion stood. The Engelhardt extension is a beautiful bayed Renaissance Revival building, which seems very incomplete, although it is now standing on its own, with an entrance on Gates Avenue. The Turn Verein has long ago left Bushwick, and is now headquartered, with its new name, The American Turners, in Throgs Neck, the Bronx. GMAP

Postcard, early 1900's

Photograph: NY Public Library, 1923.

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