Building of the Day: 671 Lafayette Avenue

Address: 671 Lafayette Avenue, between Marcy and Tompkins
Name: Charles Froeb House, now First Corinthian Baptist Church
Neighborhood: Bedford Stuyvesant
Year Built: late 1880’s
Architectural Style: Rundbogenstil Romanesque Revival
Architect: Probably Theobald Engelhardt
Landmarked: No

Why chosen: When neighborhoods change in demographics, and large mansions become white elephants that are just too hard to maintain, or too complicated to break up, they often become churches. Such is the case here. This house was built for Charles Froeb, a German-born entrepreneur who came to the US and lived the American Dream. He was born in 1847, and came to Brooklyn at the age of 11. At 26, he started a wholesale wine and liquor business from a building at Tompkins Avenue and Hopkins Street. The business grew rapidly, and he was so successful that he engaged architect Theobald Engelhardt to design a four story building and addition on the property.

Engelhardt was no stranger to any businessman of German descent in Brooklyn, and was the principal architect of many of the industrial buildings, breweries, civic buildings, as well as homes throughout northern Brooklyn, and beyond. The two men were also members of the Arion Singing Society, a very popular German-American club. Froeb was president of the Arion Society for a number of years, Engelhardt was also an officer and member, and the architect of the Arion Society’s new building, in Williamsburg. I believe he is the architect of this house. It is in the Rundbogenstil style of Romanesque Revival architecture that Engelhardt was master of. The arched brickwork at the roofline is very similar to Engelhardt’s Ulmer Brewery in Williamsburg.

Charles Froeb, his wife and four sons lived in this house from the time it was built, till at least after his death in 1946, at the age of 89. Froeb became president of the German Savings Bank, which merged several times until he ended up as president of Lincoln Savings Bank, a post he held until retirement. Ironically, he first appears in the paper because of a lightning bolt that hits this house in the summer of 1904, which causes the ball at the top of the gable to hit the brownstone next door.


(Photo: Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

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