Building of the Day: 138 Bleecker Street

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: St. Barbara’s Catholic Church
Address: 138 Bleecker Street
Cross Streets: Corner Central Avenue
Neighborhood: Bushwick
Year Built: 1907-1910
Architectural Style: Spanish Baroque
Architect: Hemle & Huberty
Landmarked: No

The story: This is an amazing church. It towers above the neighborhood, and coming up on it reminds me of discovering one of the Baroque churches hidden on back streets in Rome or Madrid. The AIA Guide calls the towers “edible wedding cake.” Yeah, it’s over the top, but that’s the definition of Baroque, and it’s SO well done. The interior of this church is more impressive than the exterior. The photos only begin to show how the Baroque style was translated so well into a 20th-century church.

St. Barbara’s was built for the German Catholic population of Bushwick, and is named for the daughter of one of its largest patrons, brewer Leopold Epping. Over the years the congregation changed from German to Italian to Hispanic, and has endured through this neighborhood’s recent rocky history.

The firm of Helmle and Huberty were experts in re-interpretations of Classical and other historic European forms. Frank Helmle was educated at Cooper Union, and later at L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, and then worked for a time at McKim, Mead and White. He was a superb architect. He and Ulrich Huberty also designed St. Gregory the Great Church in Crown Heights North, also an impressive Catholic church. They were also responsible for the Hotel Bossert in the Heights, as well as the Greenpoint Savings Bank, and the Boathouse and Tennis House in Prospect Park, among many other important buildings. GMAP

(Originally posted 7/27/2010)

Photo: St. Barbara’s Church website.

Ceiling photo: St. Barbara’s Church website.

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