Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: St. Stephen and St. Martin Episcopal Church
Address: 809 Jefferson Avenue, between Patchen and Ralph Avenues
Neighborhood: Bedford Stuyvesant
sometime around 1868 1854 or older
Architectural Style: New England Gothic
This section of Bedford Stuyvesant used to be the Ninth Ward, or part of the Eastern District, which stretched into Bushwick and Williamsburg. Back in the 1860’s, it was developed as a suburban retreat, with large houses on large lots, surrounded by lawns and gardens.
There is still at least one house remaining in the area from that time, before the area was developed with row houses, and it is across the street from this church.
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church was established as a mission on nearby Fulton St, and first relocated to Gates Ave, near Ralph, and then here. An 1868 ad in the Brooklyn Eagle advertising available land, mentions the church as the center of the new community developing in the Ninth Ward.
For a small church on the outskirts of town, as it were, little St. Stephen’s was in the news a lot, mostly because of its leaders. After a beloved minister was transferred in 1889, he was replaced by a pastor who made a lot of changes in the church, so many that the congregation voted to have him removed, and he was replaced with someone they liked much better only a year later.
Sometime in the 1890’s, the congregation moved into a new stone church next door, on the corner of Jefferson and Patchen, but that church burned down at some unknown date, and they moved back to the older wooden building.
They would later merge with St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, formerly at 201 President St., becoming St. Stephen and St. Martin. To walk down the street now, and see this New England church amidst the brownstones of Brooklyn is always a treat.
I don’t know when it lost its steeple, which would have added to its charm. I love the little Gothic dormers, and the restrained use of other Gothic trademarks, such as rose windows and stained glass panels. The congregation was Low Church, a very simple, Protestant version of Episcopalianism, and it shows in the design of this church. It’s an important landmark in the eastern part of Bedford Stuyvesant.
[Photos by Suzanne Spellen]