Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Formerly Day’s Avena Hall, now commercial and residential space
Address: 370-372 9th Street
Cross Streets: Corner 6th Avenue
Neighborhood: Park Slope
Year Built: 1892
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: Walter H.C. Hornum
Other works by architect: Row houses, tenements and flats buildings in Brooklyn and Manhattan
The story: I feature theaters a lot in this column, because theaters were vitally important buildings in the lives of the people who lived on in our historic communities. But in addition to theaters, there were other buildings available as entertainment or gathering spaces. Halls were built in just about every community for use as assembly spaces, dance halls, and for lectures, church services, political rallies, fraternal organizations, private parties and more. More often than not, these buildings were placed on corners, where they could take advantage of a great deal of natural light on two street facing sides, and for the simple reason that they were more visible and accessible in those locations. Park Slope had at least three of these halls that I can think of off the top of my head, Avon Hall, on 7th Avenue, Grand Prospect Hall, and Day’s Avena Hall. There were probably more, but today’s building was Day’s Avena Hall.
In 1892, a man named Edward P. Day opened this facility, called “Arvena Hall” here on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 9th Street. The architect was Walter H.C. Hornum, a Manhattan architect who, working with this brother, designed quite a few row houses and flats buildings in the Sugar Hill and Jumel Terrace part of Upper Harlem.
The name “Arvena”, supposedly an ancient Greek word meaning “place of assemblage” was soon corrupted, and the building was generally referred to as Day’s Avena Hall, or just Day’s Avena. It was an entertainment hall, with meeting rooms and a large dance floor on the top floor, and a spacious assembly hall on the second floor.
The Brooklyn Eagle and other local papers were soon full of ads and announcements for events taking place here. The local Democratic Club had headquarters here, as did a Masonic Lodge and a dance instructor named Professor J.O. E. Smalls. There were lectures and slideshows by all kinds of people on all kinds of subjects, including one by a Herbert L. Bridgman on the Arctic regions and the lives of the “Esquimaux.”
One night in July, 1909, shots were heard coming from Day’s Avena. Concerned citizens left their homes and went to the hall, but all was dark within. The police were called, and when they entered the building, they found a group of men in the assembly room, with one blindfolded man on his knees and another holding a pistol by his head, with the rest gathered in a circle around them. It turned out to be an initiation for an organization called the Red Men, and the shots were part of a test of bravery. The paper made note that the “Men in Blue” were not needed at a meeting of the “Men in Red.”
Mutual Aid societies, church groups, card playing clubs, social clubs, obscure fraternal societies, and political clubs met here. There were fund raisers, balls, minstrel shows, concerts, lectures, rallies and wedding receptions here at Day’s Avena Hall. I found newspaper announcements from the 1890s through 1939. Today, the building is a co-op, and the meeting spaces and halls have all been made into apartments. There are now six apartments in the building, with commercial space on the ground floor.
(Photo:Kate Leonova for PropertyShark)