Building of the Day: 102 Willow Street

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Dansk Sømandskirke (Seamen’s Church)
Address: 102 Willow Street, between Clark and Pierrepont Streets
Neighborhood: Brooklyn Heights
Year Built: 1850’s-1860
Architectural Style: Italianate
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: Yes, part of Brooklyn Heights HD.

The story: This is one of the best preserved Italianate houses in Brooklyn Heights, built when the Heights was home to large extended families of wealthy individuals. The earliest listing in the Brooklyn Eagle is an ad for the return of a lost dog named Flash, who disappeared in March of 1862, so we know a house was there then, probably this one, due to the style, which was in its prime at the time. The large five story house was home to the Reid family, who also had relatives next door, and around the corner. They were related by marriage to the Spier family and the Knox’s, all old Brooklyn families who made their money in insurance and banking. They were involved with local churches and charities, and like many old line wealthy families, tended to stay out of the society pages, only appearing when getting married, or buried.

Fast forwarding to the mid 1900’s, the house became the location of the Danish Seamen’s Church in 1957. Den Dansk Sømandskirke of New York was founded back in 1878, by Danish pastor Rasmus Andersen. In 1886, He established Our Saviour’s Church, on 9th Street, in Gowanus, where it remained until they moved to Willow Street, changing the name to the Danish Seamen’s Church. This is the only church in either North or South America where church services are held in Danish. A great part of their mission is to care for Danish seamen coming to NY, as over 300 Danish ships dock here every year. They also provide a home away from home for New York’s Danish community, with many community programs, and hosting Danish politicians, artists and celebrities.

The house is a classic Brooklyn Heights Italianate, with an extra, on a wide 25′ lot, as per usual for this part of the Heights. It’s a classic of the style in every way, with the wide, large brownstone stairs, newel posts and balusters, the deep hooded windows and doors, and the classic acanthus leaf brackets flanking the door. The extra touches are the dormers on the top floor, which make this building a stand out, as they peek over a large wooden cornice. By painting them black, the small windows surrounding by oversized frames really pop, which along with its fine condition and place on the street, make this fine house one of the best of its style in the entire Heights. Fremragende stykke arbejde, godt gÃ¥et. (Excellent job, well done.)

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