Building of the Day: 251-261 Rochester Avenue

251-261 Rochester Ave, NS, PS 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Originally Temple Petach Tikvah, now Bibleway Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith
Address: 251-261 Rochester Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner Lincoln Place
Neighborhood: Crown Heights North
Year Built: 1914-1915
Architectural Style: Greek Classical Revival
Architect: E. M. Adelsohn
Other buildings by architect: Jewish Orphan Asylum, New Hebrew School- Brownsville (both gone), Brooklyn Hygeia Ice Plant, Brooklyn Hebrew Maternity Hospital, row houses, commercial buildings, stores in Brownsville, Crown Heights and other areas of Brooklyn and Queens.
Landmarked: No

The story: By the ‘teens and early 1920s, much of Crown Heights was on its way to becoming an affluent Jewish neighborhood. Many of the neighborhood’s residents were successful German Jewish business owners, doctors, lawyers and other professionals. As this community grew, they built many of the mansions on President Street, on “Doctor’s Row,” and occupied the fine housing stock of the neighborhood. They also built fine houses of worship, most of which still stand. Shaare Zedek, now the Historic Church of God in Christ, on the corner of Kingston and Park Place, is one of the finest examples, as is the former Jewish Community Center on Eastern Parkway, now a Talmudic Seminary, between New York and Brooklyn Avenues. Today’s BOTD predates both of these buildings.

Many synagogues and temples are named for religious tenants of faith, but Petach Tikvah is named for a place; a city in central Israel of the same name, founded in 1878 by mostly Orthodox European settlers. The English translation is the “Door of Hope.” Brooklyn’s Petach Tikvah was founded as a Conservative congregation in 1914, organized by some of those same affluent Jewish businessmen, including William Roth, a Vice President of the Manufacturer’s Trust Bank. He was the first president of the congregation and led the fundraising drive to build the temple and its adjoining assembly hall next door.

The complex was designed by Brooklyn architect Edward M. Adelsohn. He received his architectural training at Cooper Union and practiced in Brooklyn for many years from his office at 1776 Pitkin Avenue in Brownsville, as well as from a later office at 26 Court St. A quick look at his career reveals little about the man himself, but shows a huge body of work to his credit. He did a lot of work for Jewish religious and charitable institutions, designing several other houses of worship, as well as schools, community centers and hospitals in Brooklyn and Queens. He also had a full career designing apartment buildings in both boroughs, including several in Jackson Heights that are part of a landmarked district. His other buildings include storefronts, row houses, garages and factories. E.M. Adelsohn died in 1930, leaving a wife and two daughters.

The first leader of Temple Petach Tikvah was Rabbi Israel Herbert Levinthal, who led the congregation from 1915 to 1919. He was one of a new generation of Jewish leaders at the time, born in the Old Country, but educated in the United States at the finest schools, including Columbia University, the Jewish Seminary of America and he held a doctorate from the Jewish Theological Seminary. He was also a lawyer. His tenure at Petach Tikvah would lead to his appointment as rabbi at the new Jewish Community Center on Eastern Parkway, only blocks from here.

The temple flourished at a time when Jewish life began changing in the 20th century. The Jewish Community Center, where Rabbi Levinthal went next, was at the forefront of a move to bring worship, culture and education together. Many wealthier congregations now had buildings that could add social programs, a gymnasium, auditorium, adult clubs and youth organizations to traditional worship and schooling. Petach Tikvah followed in that example by building an auditorium next door to the temple, a building that had a ballroom, banquet facilities, and room for organizations to meet.

Brooklyn’s newspapers for the next 50 years highlight the activities of the temple, with ladies’ clubs, weddings and banquets, men’s and youth organizations, educational activities, charitable events, dances, concerts, recitals and the like. It was a very busy place. Echoing this vibrant activity was the appointment of Rabbi Nathan R. Rosen, in 1934. At 28, he was the youngest rabbi to be installed in any New York pulpit. He had come to NY from Savannah, Georgia.

The temple remains in the newspapers until the 1950s, when activity ends. The last entry I found was 1954, and was for a wedding, and a Brooklyn chat room led to a man who had gone to Hebrew School here in 1957. The demographics of Crown Heights and Brownsville had changed, and the temple found its congregants moving to other parts of the city, and out into the suburbs. I don’t know exactly when the temple closed, but a safe bet would be in the 1960s.

In 1973, the building complex was purchased by the Bibleway Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, a black Pentecostal church with a very large congregation. They had been founded in 1943, on Reid Avenue in Bedford Stuyvesant, had moved to a larger home on Gates Avenue, and then moved here. Their website indicates that they raised money to rebuild and remodel in the 1990s, and are very proud of their church home. They also use the assembly hall for church and church school activities. I’m glad they kept the original façade and windows. GMAP

(Photograph:Nicholas Strini for Property Shark)

One of our readers asked about this building. I like getting requests, so if you have one, please send it along. I can’t promise a post, it all depends on what I can find out, and the availability of photographs, but if I can find enough info, I’ll write it. If you’ve sent suggestions before, and I never answered, apologies, and please send again. It’s a new year, hopefully I can be more organized. Thanks, again Mr. C.D. for suggesting this great building.

Photograph: Novelty Theater.net

Photograph: Novelty Theater.net

Rabbi Israel Levinthal, from the History of Brooklyn Jewry.

Rabbi Israel Levinthal, from the History of Brooklyn Jewry.

Assembly Hall of former Petach Tikvah. 251 Rochester Ave. Googlemaps.

Assembly Hall of former Petach Tikvah. 251 Rochester Ave. Googlemaps.

One Comment

  • Thanks for this article, MM. I went to Sunday and Hebrew school at Petach Tikvah until 1957, at which time my family moved out to Long Island. For that reason, I know that it was still functioning as a Jewish temple until at least that time. While I was only 9 when we moved away, it seemed to me that it was still pretty well-attended at that point. I remember that there were still Hasidim living along Lincoln Place as I walked along that street back towards Ralph Ave. I remember holiday parties in the social hall portion and it all seemed really nice. (What does a 9 year old really know about such things?) Your article brought back many pleasant memories.