Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: St. John’s Episcopal Church
Address: 9818 Ft. Hamilton Parkway
Cross Streets: Corner of 99th Street
Neighborhood: Bay Ridge/Fort Hamilton
Year Built: 1890, rectory built in 1910
Architectural Style: Arts and Crafts
The story: This Episcopal Church near the Fort Hamilton Army Base is known as the “the Church of the Generals,” due to all of the military men who worshipped here over the years since the church was founded in 1834. Robert E. Lee was a vestryman here, and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was baptized here. Interestingly enough, both went on to become the two most famous Confederate generals of the Civil War. That has nothing to do with the church, of course, but for the accident of birth and location, history could have been much different. Anyway, this goes to show that this unassuming little church has a long and interesting history.
Nearby Fort Hamilton saw a large expansion in the early 1800’s, and this church was founded, in part, to meet the spiritual needs of the army base. However, this building is not the church that Lee and Jackson attended. This structure replaced the earlier church, and was built in 1890, in a style neither man would readily recognize: Arts and Crafts. The church and the rectory, which was built twenty years later, are classic Arts and Crafts, low slung, simple, and rustic cottage style buildings, in stone and shingles, with red, white and gold polychrome trim. Meant not to impress with tall Gothic spires, this church is a perfect complement to a neighborhood, although the presence of Fort Hamilton Parkway/Gowanus Expressway rising above, across the street, ruins the bucolic atmosphere.
Inside the church, the Arts and Crafts aesthetic is especially strong, with bright, open spaces, natural wood beams, and a very interesting black and white patterned floor. The stained glass windows throughout the church are contemporary, featuring saints and modern figures, including many not even Episcopalian, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Pope John Paul II, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, Abraham Lincoln, and writer C.S. Lewis (he was Episcopalian/Anglican). They are all very interesting, and complement this ancient, yet very modern space. I like this one very much. GMAP