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Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row houses
Address: 1173-1179 Bushwick Avenue
Cross Streets: Cornelia Street and Jefferson Avenue
Neighborhood: Bushwick
Year Built: 1880
Architectural Style: Transitional Italianate/Neo-Grec
Architect: Thomas F. Houghton
Other works by architect: St. Agnes Catholic Church and school, Carroll Gardens; Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church, Stuyvesant Heights; St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Park Slope. Also row houses and other buildings in Stuyvesant Heights, Crown Heights North, and elsewhere
Landmarked: No

The story: At first glance, these transitional Italianate and Neo-Grec homes are just another group of four modest brownstones. But here, as in all of his work, architect Thomas Houghton created beauty in the details.

These four houses were designed by one of the East Coast’s premiere Catholic Church architects, best known for his churches here in Brooklyn, Manhattan and in Massachusetts.

Houghton learned from the best of the best, Patrick Keely, and became part of the family by marrying the boss’s daughter.


Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Originally St. Agnes Catholic School, now apartments
Address: 421 DeGraw Street
Cross Streets: Hoyt and Bond Streets
Neighborhood: Technically Gowanus, although most consider it to be in Carroll Gardens
Year Built: 1898-1900
Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival
Architect: Original building by Thomas Houghton. Apartment conversion by Grasso-Menziuso Architects, PC.
Other works by architect: Houghton: Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church, Stuyvesant Heights; St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Park Slope; Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Fort Greene, row houses in Stuyvesant Heights, and more. Grasso-Menziuso: Schools, institutional buildings, many new and rehabbed affordable housing projects in New York and several other cities.
Landmarked: No

The story: During the 19th century, South Brooklyn developed as an industrial hub, with the factories and plants in Gowanus on one side and the Red Hook docks and manufacturing facilities on the other.

Industry is nothing without a ready work force. Developers built up the residential streets in between and in the surrounding neighborhoods, and workers quickly moved in.

A vast majority of those workers were Catholics, first the Irish, then Italians, Poles, and much later, Spanish-speaking Catholics. The Irish community petitioned the Church for their own neighborhood parish, and in 1878, the first Catholic Bishop of Brooklyn, Bishop Laughlin, instituted the parish of St. Agnes here, with Father James Duffy as its first pastor. A wooden church was built on the corner of Hoyt and DeGraw.


Although Brooklyn is known as the “Borough of Churches,” Queens is no slouch in that category either. Spires, steeples, minarets and domes accentuate the streetscape in just about every part of Queens. Each one is a marker for the vast amount of history and culture that they represent. Many of these houses of worship are also fine examples of 19th and 20th century architecture, the product of imagination and talent. Many architects specialized in sacred buildings, others created them along with many other kinds of architecture. Some of these architects had great faith themselves, and it shows in the details of the buildings they created. St. Mary’s Catholic Church was designed by one of those faithful men, an architect of prodigious talent and a huge body of work to his name. He was Patrick Charles Keely, and St. Mary’s is but one of hundreds of churches he designed in his long career.


A tipster told us that part of a historic fence around the landmarked Our Lady of Victory Church in Bed Stuy was cut off Friday night. When we stopped by the church on Sunday, we saw that a large section of the red-painted ironwork fence had been removed on the Macdonough Street side. Apparently a contractor told the church he would take the gates down to clean and repaint them, but it looks like he simply cut the fence off at the base. The church wasn’t granted landmarks approval to take down the fence, according to the tipster. Although we don’t know exactly how old the fence is, it dates at least as far back as the church’s 1970s tax photo. The  Stuyvesant Heights church was built in 1895 and designed by Thomas Houghton. It was landmarked in 1973.

Click through to the jump to see photos of the fence and the missing section.

Building of the Day: 583 Throop Avenue [Brownstoner]

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: St. Francis Xavier Rectory
Address: 225 Sixth Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner President Street
Neighborhood: Park Slope
Year Built: 1889
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: Charles Werner
Other works by architect: Buildings in Park Slope, Fort Greene, Prospect Park South and Prospect Heights. 208 Argyle Rd; 214 Lincoln Pl; 26-30 South Oxford.
Landmarked: No, and neither is the church, astonishingly enough.

The story: The parish of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church was established in 1886, at 243 6th Avenue, in a brownstone on the corner of Carroll Street and 6th. Thanks to a growing Irish Catholic population and a go-getter founding priest, Fr. David Hickey, a church was standing on the site of the present St. Francis Xavier only four months later. That building was soon too small, and it was moved to President Street, and the beautiful granite and limestone Gothic church designed by Thomas Houghton was begun in 1900, and was dedicated in 1904. Like many successful and large Catholic churches, the church building itself was soon surrounded by a compound of buildings, including a school, convent, parish center and rectory. This building is the church rectory.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: St. Boniface Catholic Church
Address: 190 Duffield Street
Cross Streets: Willoughby Street and Myrtle Avenue
Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
Year Built: 1872
Architectural Style: Neo-Gothic
Architect: Patrick Charles Keely
Other buildings by architect: St. Francis Xavier, Park Slope; Our Lady of Victory, Bedford Stuyvesant; St. Charles Borromeo, Brooklyn Heights, among many others.
Landmarked: No

The story: The church of St. Boniface was founded by German immigrants in 1853. Their first building was a former Episcopal church that once stood at the corner of Willoughby and Bridge Streets. They were the first parish to be established by Bishop Laughlin, Brooklyn’s first, and most famous, Catholic bishop. St. Boniface was an English monk who was sent to convert the fierce German tribesmen during the Dark Ages, an experience that Brooklyn’s new German immigrants could probably relate to, in coming to a new land. The parish grew quickly, and by the end of the 1860’s, they bought land on Duffield Street, and hired Patrick Charles Keely to design a new and larger church.

The BOTD is a no-frills look at interesting structures of all types and from all neighborhoods. There will be old, new, important, forgotten, public, private, good and bad. Whatever strikes our fancy. We hope you enjoy.

Address: 225 6th Avenue at Carroll Street
Name: Roman Catholic Church of St. Francis Xavier of the Indies
Neighborhood: Park Slope
Year Built: 1900-1904
Architectural Style: Early English Gothic
Architect: Thomas Houghton
Landmarked: No

The second entry in our Christmas BOTD Church week is St. Francis Xavier Church. The parish was founded by its first pastor, Reverend David J. Hickey in 1886.

The BOTD is a no-frills look at interesting structures of all types and from all neighborhoods. There will be old, new, important, forgotten, public, private, good and bad. Whatever strikes our fancy. We hope you enjoy.

Address: 583 Throop Avenue, corner of MacDonough St.
Name: Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church
Neighborhood: Stuyvesant Heights
Year Built: 1891-1895
Architectural Style: Neo-Gothic
Architects: Thomas Houghton
Landmarked: Yes

Why chosen:
As far back as 1868, the mostly Irish parishioners of Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church were raising money to build a new church. The Brooklyn Eagle has literally hundreds of notices advertising the many fund raisers the church held over the years. They had the site, owning over 30 lots of land along Throop Avenue, between MacDonough and Gates, and a temporary wood frame church and rectory was dedicated by Brooklyn’s most famous Catholic, Bishop Loughlin, in 1869. For many years, this would be the only Catholic church in the immediate area. But as more and more immigrants came to Brooklyn with Catholic backgrounds, the Diocese of Brooklyn grew by leaps and bounds, and Our Lady of Victory very quickly outgrew the old frame church. In 1890, plans for a new church were announced, the architect chosen was Thomas Houghton, who would later design the very different St. Francis Xavier Church in Park Slope. OLOV is a classic Gothic style church, but the building stone is quite unusual – dark Manhattan schist, trimmed with white limestone. The contrast between the dark and light, the use of the bedrock material of the city, was all this quite deliberate and symbolic? Most definitely, and the upper class and successful Irish congregation, were probably well aware, too. It is a striking building, and makes up an impressive complex, along with the adjoining rectory and school, all in the same materials. Today, the congregation is African-American, and the church is still going strong.