Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Hebron French Speaking Seventh Day Adventist Church, formerly First Church of Christ, Scientist
Address: 100 New York Avenue, corner of Dean Street
Neighborhood: Crown Heights North
Year Built: 1909-10
Architectural Style: Byzantine Romanesque Revival
Architect: Henry Ives Cobb
Other buildings by architect: In NYC- Liberty Tower, 55 Liberty St. In Chicago – Old Post Office, Chicago Athletic Club.
Landmarked: Yes, part of Crown Heights North HD (2007)
The story: This may well be the only Byzantine Revival building in Brooklyn. It certainly is an unusual church, with a rich history. It was originally home to the First Church of Christ Scientist, or Christian Scientists, the denomination started by Mary Baker Eddy in Boston in 1879. Ms. Eddy’s book, Science and Health with Keys to the Scriptures began an entirely new branch of Christianity based on what she called the science of healing, as practiced by Jesus in the New Testament. Despite the condemnation of many mainstream branches of Christianity, Christian Science became very popular towards the end of the 20th century, especially among more educated and affluent people, resulting in the building of some rather large and ornate Christian Science churches in the better neighborhoods of many cities. This is one of the best, being situated in the affluent Bedford and St. Marks Districts of Brooklyn.
The architect of the church was…
…Henry Ives Cobb. He was born in Brookline, MA and educated at Harvard and MIT. He then went to work for the well-known firm of Peabody and Stearns in Boston, before moving to Chicago, after winning a competition to design a new Union Club there. While in Chicago, he partnered with Charles S. Frost, and as Cobb & Frost, designed several important Chicago buildings, most significantly, main Old Post Office, in 1896, as well as the Chicago Athletic Club and buildings on the University of Chicago campus.
His design philosophies were developed in his work on the 1893 Chicago World’s Exhibition, which introduced the White Cities and City Beautiful concepts to the United States. He was the architect of two buildings there, the Horticulture Hall and the Fisheries Buildings. Most of his work is classically inspired, in light colored materials, true to the concepts of the White City. In 1902, he moved to New York City, and began designing mostly commercial and office buildings, with buildings in lower Manhattan such as the Harriman Bank Buildings and Liberty Tower at 55 Liberty Street, now an individual NYC Landmark.
This church is notable for its complex massing, with an octagonal central basilica, with tall stained glass windows in arched frames, fanciful dormers, bays, an unusual flat tiled pyramid roof, and arches galore. There is so much to look at when you stand in front of, and move around the church. The design is continued in the Sunday school building connected on the Dean Street side. It’s an unusual, striking and very beautiful church.
The Christian Scientists eventually left, selling the church building to the First Church of Christ, who in turn, sold it to the French Speaking Seventh Day Adventists in 1977. The Hebron French Speaking SDA Church was the first of its kind in North America, founded in 1956 to minister to a mostly Haitian community. Today, they run a successful soup kitchen there, operate a school in the neighborhood, as well as conduct services for a large Haitian-American community. The building still stops traffic, especially paired with the very different, but equally magnificent Union United Methodist Church directly across the street. Sacred architecture at its best in Brooklyn. GMAP