Building of the Day: 1095 St. Johns Place

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: former Brooklyn Home for Aged Colored People, now Brooklyn Home for the Aged.
Address: 1095 St. Johns Place, corner of Kingston Avenue.
Neighborhood: Crown Heights North
Year Built: 1899-1900
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Architect: George H. Stone
Landmarked: No, but will be part of Phase 3 of CHN HD, to be calendared this June.

The story: In 1869, the first Zion Home for Aged Colored opened on Buffalo Avenue in Weeksville. Like the many other institutions and businesses of Weeksville, it was run by a successful community of African-Americans who called this eastern part of what is now Crown Heights, home. Weeksville was founded around the parcel of land owned by James Weeks, a stevedore who bought the land from another African-American in 1838. By the 1850’s, Weeksville was a thriving town of over 500, with businesses, two churches, a newspaper, a school, the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum and the Zion Home for the Aged. The Draft Riots in Manhattan in 1863 brought many more black people to Weeksville, fleeing the violence that killed hundreds.

The Home was greatly supported by the black community, and also was on the list of Brooklyn’s charitable white donors. In 1895, the need for a larger facility caused the management of the Home to seek a new location, and a parcel of land on the corner of Kingston Avenue and St. Johns Place was purchased. This area already had a large charitable organization nearby, in the form of the large Hospital for Consumptives, which was across the street. Fundraising began, which took several years, and the cornerstone of the Brooklyn Home for Aged Colored People was laid on June 24, 1899. George Stone, a local architect with several homes and flats buildings to his credit in the neighborhood, donated his services. Enough money was raised to completely buy the land, build, and open with no mortgage or outstanding bills. The opening ceremonies of the Home included an address by Booker T. Washington.

Dr. Susan McKinney Steward, the first African-American woman to earn a medical degree in New York State, was the doctor of record for the Brooklyn Home in the first years of the 20th century, until her death in 1918. Much later, the Home became the Brooklyn Home for the Aged, open to anyone, and today, the original building has been joined by several modern additions, increasing the number of people who live there in both private suites, and general population. They are still a vibrant part of the community, sharing their meeting rooms with block associations and other organizations for meetings and other activities. The Crown Heights North community looks forward to this building being protected under landmarking, insuring that this important piece of Brooklyn’s history remains.

(Photo: Brooklyn Public Library)

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