Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Former St. Matthew Evangelical English Lutheran Church, now Mission for Today Holy Tabernacle Church
Address: 306 Sixth Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner 2nd Street
Neighborhood: Park Slope
Year Built: 1895
Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival
Architect: LB Valk & Sons
Other Buildings by Architect: 6th Ave. Baptist Church, houses at 21-27 7th Ave in Park Slope. New Utrecht Reformed Church parish house, Bethel 7th Day Adventist Church, Grand Ave, Clinton Hill, Centennial Baptist Church, Adelphi St. Fort Greene.
The story: St. Matthew’s Evangelical English Lutheran Church was founded in 1859. It was the first English speaking Lutheran church in Brooklyn. Its parishioners were first and second-generation German immigrants who made the decision to worship in English, another step in becoming mainstream Americans. After leasing space in other churches for many years, they bought this lot in 1895 for the purpose of building a large church for their growing congregation. They hired the firm of L.B. Valk & Sons to design and build their new church home.
The rather battered stone signage on the church declares it to be St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, but the architecture would bear that out, anyway. It is very much one of Martin Luther’s “Mighty fortresses”, a solid and sturdy structure, with a very impressive bell tower and stained glass facades. Brooklyn-based architect Lawrence B. Valk, along with his son, Arthur, were primarily church architects, responsible for many churches in Brooklyn, as well as dotted around the country, from Baltimore to New England and beyond, working from the 1870s through the early 1900s. Here in Brooklyn, their best known buildings are the New Utrecht Reformed Church parish house, a landmarked building, as well as the 6th Ave Baptist Church, right near here. Their most remarked on buildings are not churches, but the group of houses on 7th Avenue and Sterling which includes the wonderful corner house with the oriel tower, the “Lillian Ward” house.
Originally, the church steeple had a sharply pitched roof, with a stamped metal cornice and small gargoyles at the corners. The windows of the steeple were covered not in glass, but with shutters. The brick was a natural golden or buff color. With the lighter limestone trim, such as the colonettes rising along the tower, and the banding around the building, along with the large stained glass windows, this made for a very handsome church. In February of 1937, strong gale winds made it necessary for a fireman to climb a very tall ladder to remove the metal cornice, and at some point between 1944 and 1951, the roof of the steeple was removed.
In 1948, St. Matthew’s merged with nearby Emanuel Lutheran, and became St. Matthew-Emanuel Lutheran Church. The church later merged with another Lutheran Church, St. John’s, and is now St. John-Matthew-Emanuel Lutheran Church, now located at the former St. John’s, at 283 Prospect Avenue. This church became known as Maranatha Temple, a non-denominational church, according to the Eagle, which took a photograph in 1951, showing the church without a steeple roof. In 1985, Maranatha sold the building to the Mission for Today, Holy Tabernacle Church. Unfortunately, they do not seem to have the money to keep it up, and it is looking rather worse for wear. Too bad someone painted the bricks red, that didn’t help. Hopefully help can be found for this historic structure. Love the flying buttress on the side. GMAP