Address: 457 Grand Avenue, between Fulton Street and Lefferts Place
Name: formerly Church of Our Father, First Universalist Society of Brooklyn, now Bethel 7th Day Adventist Church
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
Year Built: 1882
Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival
Architect: Lawrence B. Valk
Landmarked: No, but part of the Clinton Hill South HD, in National Register of Historic Places.
I’ve always liked this church, tucked away on Grand Avenue, almost alone in an area straddling both commercial and residential areas. I like the shapes and massing of the building, the tall chimney-like brick spires, the use of terra-cotta ornament, and the very interesting use of height and length within the Romanesque Revival style.
The elongated windows, bell tower and turrets, and those chimneys all add up to a fine looking, and unique church building, all in a very warm and comfortable brick. The church was built for the Universalist Society of Brooklyn, a small denomination in this borough of churches.
It was dedicated in 1883, with Mayor Seth Low in attendance. The building is but one of architect Lawrence B. Valk’s many churches, built in various locations across the country. He was born in 1838 and died in 1924.
He practiced from around 1859 to his death, specializing mostly in churches, but also some residences. His junior partner was his son, Arthur, who joined the firm in 1885. Lawrence Valk wrote in his 1873 book, Church Architecture, that “Churches are for the salvation of souls, not the architectural display at the sacrifice of comfort.”
All of his churches are modest, yet quite good, mostly in the Richardsonian Romanesque Revival style. From his office at 229 Broadway, in Manhattan, he designed Protestant churches in Red Hook; Duchess County, Patchogue, Flint; Michigan, New Orleans and in other cities.
Most of these buildings are landmarked or on the National Register. Here in Brooklyn, he was responsible for the Parish House of the New Utrecht Reformed Church (1892), and perhaps, most memorably, the Lillian Ward House, and its neighboring group of rowhouses at the corner of 7th Avenue and Sterling Place. in Park Slope. (1887)
In the late 1890’s, he and his son moved their practice to Los Angeles, where they continued to design churches, as well as Craftsman bungalows. Arthur became quite well known as the architect of many of L.A.’s early movie theaters.
This building became Bethel 7th Day Adventist in 1936, and is the oldest 7th Day Adventist Church in Brooklyn, the parish itself having been established in 1907. At its height, this African-American parish had over a thousand members, and today, has over 700.
[Photos by Suzanne Spellen]