Building of the Day: 116 Sixth Avenue

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church
Address: 116 Sixth Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner of Park Place
Neighborhood: Park Slope
Year Built: 1892
Architectural Style: English Gothic/Romanesque Revival
Architect: Parfitt Brothers
Other buildings by architect: Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, 7th Avenue; Grosvenor, Berkeley, Montague apartment buildings, Brooklyn Heights; Truslow House, Crown Heights North; many other buildings throughout Brooklyn
Landmarked: No

The story: They don’t call Brooklyn the “Borough of Churches” for nothing; we earned it. Almost every neighborhood in Brooklyn is full of churches, ranging from small chapels to giant cathedrals, with most falling in the middle: large churches for the growing population of the faithful that poured into Brooklyn in the 19th century, most of whom came from Europe. In 1853, Bishop John Laughlin was appointed by the Pope as the first bishop of Brooklyn. His new office represented the huge growth of the Catholic population in Brooklyn. German, Irish, and later Italians, Poles and other Catholic immigrants were settling in large numbers, necessitating the building of new churches every year.

Park Slope’s Catholics were predominantly Irish. By the time 1870 rolled around, the Irish in the area, as a group, were doing well, and some well-heeled parishioners wanted to found a new parish, closer to their homes. They began by meeting in a house on Warren Street, and a year later the first St. Augustine’s was built on 5th Avenue and Bergen. Unfortunately for them, the city proceeded to build an elevated train line along 5th Avenue, and the church decided to move.

Park Slope was still relatively undeveloped at this time, and large parcels of land were still available. The congregation bought a large vacant lot at this location for $50,000 cash, intending to build a new church, school, rectory and perhaps a smaller chapel. This wealthy congregation hired the English-born and educated Parfitt Brothers, now making up one of Brooklyn’s finest architectural firms, and ground was broken for the new complex in 1887.

The huge brownstone English Gothic church was dedicated five years later, in 1892. It’s one of Brooklyn’s most beautiful churches, a masterpiece of shape and mass, texture, materials and color. The Parfitt Brothers were no strangers to church architecture, with several great churches in their portfolio, including Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, only blocks away on 7th Avenue, itself a different kind of homage to the best of English-style church design. But this church is their masterpiece.

The angel Gabriel hoists his trumpet from atop the 150-foot tower, which has withstood some recent rough weather that threatened to topple it. Below the tile roof, magnificent stained glass windows, many attributed to Tiffany Studios, gleam in the sun. This is one of those buildings that continues to delight the eye, as each time you stop to look at it, new details come to light. It’s really that good. GMAP

Photo: nyc-architecture

Photo: nyc-architecture

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