Building of the Day: 92 Herkimer Street

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Friendship Baptist Church, originally Kismet Temple
Address: 92 Herkimer Street
Cross Streets: Nostrand and Bedford avenues
Neighborhood: Bedford Stuyvesant
Year Built: 1910
Architectural Style: Eclectic Moorish Revival
Architect: R. Thomas Short
Other works by architect: Alwyn Court, West 58th Street, Manhattan
Landmarked: No, but should be

The story: Built for a Shriner chapter called the Ancient Arabic Order of the Mystic Shrine, this building is a wonderfully surprising piece of “Moorish” architecture, with its onion domes silhouetted on the horizon. Upon closer inspection, the domes are sheathed in pressed metal, and the golden brick façade is artfully festooned with terra-cotta Arabic script and ornamentation. The site of many public and political gatherings, it became a movie theatre in 1932, and was sold to Friendship Baptist Church in 1966.

Update: This is one of the few buildings by the underrated and almost unknown R. Thomas Short, an architect born in Canada, who came to Brooklyn in 1885. We know little about his background or education. He teamed up with Herbert Spencer Harde, né Steinhardt, the son of a Prussian-born real estate developer. The firm of Harde & Short, which would never survive under that name today, is best known for their wonderful wedding cake of an apartment building, called Alwyn Court, near Central Park, on 58th Street. It was completed in 1909. This building could have launched their careers as a firm, but they inexplicably broke up soon afterward. Short turned his attention back to Brooklyn, and this building, as far as we know, is his Brooklyn masterpiece. For more on duo’s careers, and their other Manhattan buildings, please check Christopher Gray’s excellent article in his Streetscape column. GMAP

(Originally posted 3/10/10)

Postcard showing members of the Order of the Mystic Shrine, posed in front of the Kismet Temple. Date fuzzy, but looks like 1912.

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