Brooklyn Churches Struggling to Maintain Their Historic Buildings


Brooklyn’s churches often struggle to keep up with maintenance and repairs on their large, historic buildings. The Brown Memorial Baptist Church on Washington Avenue and Gates Avenue in Clinton Hill has tried in recent years to raise the funds to fix a stained glass window. According to the Brooklyn Paper, one of the church’s 12 stained glass windows is in dire need of repair due to water damage. The church won a $200,000 grant, but it still needs an additional $150,000 to complete the work. “’We’re asking the community to help restore a living, breathing part of history,'” the chair of the church’s window restoration committee told the paper. It has raised $15,000 from the congregation so far. Even churches in Park Slope, where presumably those in the congregation have more resources, haven’t been immune. The Old First Reformed Church on Carroll Street and Seventh Avenue, one of the oldest in the borough, closed its sanctuary in 2011 when the ceiling looked as if it were about to crumble. The church raised $200,000 but has yet to find an architect to do the work. As we reported back in 2012 when the church was seeking $700,000 for repairs, “plaster panels must be reattached to more than a half-mile of wooden supports with new fasteners, and the process will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and take months to complete.” So many Brooklyn blocks are anchored by historic churches, but with dwindling congregations, many of them are hard pressed to fund expensive repairs on their historic buildings leading to situations like the uncertain future of Fourth Avenue’s Church of the Redeemer, the collapsing roof on a Crown Heights church in 2012 and sales to developers resulting the loss of historic interiors.

Come Hell or Falling Plaster: Brooklyn Churches Struggle to Keep Out The Elements [Brooklyn Paper]

Photo: Wikepedia


5 Comment

  • I don’t think anyone (who matters) would argue with the need to maintain and preserve “historic” buildings.

    But when the building in question serves a PRIVATE, TAX EXEMPT institution, doesn’t that group have an obligation to foresee the building’s needs prior to reaching a crisis point? The public that subsidizes such a group so heavily now faces the loss or deterioration of a place of “history” due to apathy, lack of planning, loss of interest, etc.

    If an entity and its supporters can’t afford even the basics of maintenance on their primary place of “business’, perhaps that entity is dying a natural death and needs to be allowed to do so?

    As with so many things religious, the practitioners often seem to want it both ways.

    • Well another alternative is for them to simply take out the stained glass window or plaster ceiling. I don’t see anything offensive when the church makes a private plea for private donations to preserve the fabric of a historic structure (which may indeed have been ignored when the church focuses on its social or economic mission to its often poor congregants). No one is forcing you to donate. I do recall the cries of outrage when the Green Church sold its building to a developer.

    • You are tap dancing around your distaste for religious instututions and showcasing your cultural intolerance. Just say what you really want to see happen: The property sold, the buidling demoed, Condos put up, and any and all references of religion removed. The groups that built these Churches, or “the public” as you call them, were the parishioners, many of whom no longer live near these institutions. It has nothing to do with apathy, lack of planning, or loss of interest. Brooklyn is about affluence now not diversity. If the parishioners of the Church could still afford to live in these areas, the Church would be full and the buildiing would be maintained, but you seem to want to blame those who remained for wanting to preserve their heritage. Too bad they all weren’t pushed out, huh? To you, Religion is a Business and Real Estate is the new Religion.

  • tear them down. put up high rises. we need more ‘luxury’ housing.

  • How about a link here to donate to Brown Memorial? I realize they don’t advertise on the site, but…