Building of the Day: 367 Clermont Avenue

Photo: Googlemaps

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Originally Catholic Bishop’s Residence, now La Salle Hall, part of Bishop Loughlin High School
Address: 367 Clermont Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner of Greene Avenue
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: 1883-87
Architectural Style: Victorian Gothic
Architect: Patrick C. Keely
Other Work by Architect: Churches and associated buildings up and down East Coast, including St. John the Baptist Church and school, Bed Stuy; St Chas. Borromeo, Brooklynkln Hts; St. Anthony of Padua, Greennpoint; Church of Redeemer, Boerum Hill, Convent of Sisters of Mercy, Clinton Hill, among hundreds of others.
Landmarked: Yes, part of Fort Green HD (1978)

The story: It may be hard to visualize now, but the entire block taken up today by Bishop Loughlin High School was planned by the Bishop himself to be the location of a huge block-sized cathedral, which was to be called the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The land was purchased, and the cathedral designed by Patrick C. Keely, the most prolific, and preeminent architect of Catholic Churches in America. The year was 1868. If it had been built, the cathedral would have been the second largest Catholic church building in America, at that time.

The diocese of Brooklyn had only been founded in 1852, and Bishop Loughlin was its first and only bishop, but in less than twenty years, the number of Catholics in Brooklyn had grown tremendously, helped by first German, then Irish and later large numbers of Italian, Polish and other immigrant Catholics. Bishop Loughlin was to be disappointed however, and even though the cornerstone was laid and the St. John’s Chapel frontage on Greene Avenue was completed, the rest of the cathedral was never realized. He couldn’t raise the funds, and Fort Greene land was being developed in earnest in the late 1860s and 1870s.

But they held onto the land, and in 1883 began building the Bishop’s residence, just in case. The large building would have been home and offices for the Bishop as well as other resident priests. Keely designed a classic Victorian Gothic building, considered rather dour by some, and quite good by others, in fact, Andrew Dolkart, writing for the LPC in his designation report for the Fort Greene Historic District, considers this one of Keely’s better buildings. It’s constructed out of grey granite and buff sandstone, with a copper mansard roof. The AIA Guide says it’s something out of a Charlotte Bronte novel and rather depressing, but regardless, I think it has a somber elegance, something one would think the Victorian Bishop of Brooklyn would have, and want, in his residence.

Well, apparently it may have been too somber, and not grand enough, or maybe it’s because he had to share it with other priests and some offices, but the Bishop of the Brooklyn Diocese officially decamped from this building and moved to the Charles Millard Pratt Mansion on Clinton Avenue after the Church acquired the building sometime after Charles Pratt’s death in 1935. Let’s face it; the Charles Pratt’s mansion is a much cooler house. The Church maintained the Keely building as home to the brothers and priests teaching at Bishop Loughlin High School. Today, it is LaSalle Hall, and is a boarding residence for students attending the high school and preparing for college. GMAP

(Photo: Sarah Westcott for Property Shark)

Photo: Googlemaps

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