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: 221 Kingston Avenue, corner of Park Place
Name: Formerly Shaare Zedek Synagogue, now Historic First Church of God in Christ
Neighborhood: Crown Heights North
Year Built: 1923
Architectural Style: Classical Revival
Architects: S.B. Eisendrath and B. Horowitz
Shaare Zedek was built on the lot formerly occupied by the home of Brooklyn Parks Commissioner George Brower. His daughter’s house still stands next door, the subject of many a Brownstoner conversation over the years.
This is a majestic building, built for a wealthy German Jewish population living in what was called the St. Marks District in the late 19th and early 20th century.
In 1923, while the building was still under construction, the Brooklyn Eagle wrote about the building’s impressive sanctuary, as well as its adjoining community center with classrooms, a gymnasium, bowling alley, auditorium and club rooms.
The rendering below was printed with that article. The entrance of the building is quite impressive, with Gates of Righteousness carved in both English and Hebrew.
Inside, the interior is a wonderful combination of Jewish imagery as filtered through an Arts and Crafts/Middle Eastern and Art Deco theme. The beautiful stencils are very reminiscent of the type made famous by Owen Jones during the late 19th century.
In 1969, the temple was sold to the Church of God in Christ, who have carefully preserved most of the original temple detail, simply adding the Christian iconography on top of the Jewish.
The church in one of the more active in the community with social and religious programs. Funds are needed to do necessary repairs, to assure that the Gates of Righteousness remains a Crown Heights institution, and the church should be landmarked, but is currently just outside of the next designation area for CHN.
The architects also designed Park Slope’s beautiful Congregation Beth Elohim on Garfield and 8th Avenue.
[Photos by Suzanne Spellen]