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Brownstoner reader brooklynverni snapped these dramatic photos Thursday of an excavator demolishing one of Bed Stuy’s oldest buildings, the pre-Civil War Carpenter Gothic church at 809 Jefferson Avenue. Demo for the St. Stephen and St. Martin Episcopal Church started in January.

Features such as the building’s stained glass and pews were removed, the interior was stripped bare, and then nothing much seemed to be happening for a couple of months.

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The Carpenter Gothic church at 809 Jefferson Avenue, one of Bed Stuy’s oldest structures, is now a mere shell. Demolition to make way for apartments and a new church started in January.

From the street, it appears the building has been hollowed out. The historic stained glass windows and other features have been removed. The church was standing in 1854, old maps show, and may even date from the 1840s, as we have said.

The photo above was taken last week. All the others were taken yesterday. Click through to see more.

809 Jefferson Avenue Coverage [Brownstoner] GMAP

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A mutual friend forwarded these photos, taken by a neighbor about two months ago, of the inside of the Carpenter Gothic church at 809 Jefferson Avenue. The photographer commented:

Friends of mine belong to this church and tell me that they struggled with the situation for a very long time but ultimately decided they couldn’t afford to save a very deteriorated structure. It is very sad, indeed. I don’t know who could have saved this building. To anyone in the neighborhood, this is not a surprise. We will always wonder what could have been done to save it, and let this inspire us to prevent further loss of these old gems.

Click through to see the stained-glass windows in the balcony over the entrance.

809 Jefferson Avenue Coverage [Brownstoner]

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Unfortunately, the construction boom has reached one of Brooklyn’s most notable structures: The pre-Civil War-era Carpenter Gothic (or New England Gothic) wood frame church at 809 Jefferson Avenue in Bed Stuy. The structure, which appears on an 1854 map and could be as old as the 1840s, is one of Bed Stuy’s oldest buildings.

It’s in a very old area in the northeast of the neighborhood that at the moment is sleepy and bare and dotted with the occasional mid-19th-century wood frame building. The area is not landmarked, and not likely to be, and we won’t be surprised if in 10 years it’s utterly transformed with Williamsburg-style glassy mid-rise apartment buildings.

Interior demo began in January, and the whole thing will be gone by the end of this month, according to DNAinfo.

I’m taking some time off this week, and have been reposting stories from my early days on Brownstoner, often with new information and/or pictures. I hope you enjoy this story, if you are reading it for the first time. It appeared in 2010, and is a fascinating tale of devious shenanigans and astute police work in the old Eastern District.

I spend a great deal of time digging through the archives of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and every once in a while, in the search of something else, I’ll come upon a fascinating story completely unrelated to what I was searching for. These stories help make history come alive, and flesh out the thousands of people who built and bought the houses and businesses, attended school and church, and walked Brooklyn’s streets. Today’s tale of Brooklyn life involves what looks to be the ideal upscale family, living in a comfortable suburban neighborhood. But they were something else, altogether.

The year is 1878, and the suburb is the Eastern District of Brooklyn, specifically a home on the dividing line between the Eastern and Western Brooklyn Districts; Patchen Avenue, in what is now the eastern end of Bedford Stuyvesant. The house at 152 Jefferson Street, at Patchen, was built as a suburban summer home for a retired merchant named Wade. In the center of an oversized plot of land Mr. Wade built a summer retreat, surrounded by banks of shrubbery and flowers.

This is well before the rows of brownstones and other row houses would be built in this area. Before he went away to Europe, the owner placed the house and grounds for rent, and the real estate broker found a tenant in Wall Street broker George Lake and his family. On August 28, 1878, Acting Police Captain Dunn of the 9th Sub-Precinct on Gates Avenue raided the house and arrested Mr. and Mrs Lake, her sister, and two gentlemen visitors, who soon found themselves the guests in cells on Gates Avenue.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: St. Stephen and St. Martin Episcopal Church
Address: 809 Jefferson Avenue, between Patchen and Ralph Avenues
Neighborhood: Bedford Stuyvesant
Year Built: sometime around 1868 1854 or older
Architectural Style: New England Gothic
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

This section of Bedford Stuyvesant used to be the Ninth Ward, or part of the Eastern District, which stretched into Bushwick and Williamsburg. Back in the 1860’s, it was developed as a suburban retreat, with large houses on large lots, surrounded by lawns and gardens.

There is still at least one house remaining in the area from that time, before the area was developed with row houses, and it is across the street from this church.

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church was established as a mission on nearby Fulton St, and first relocated to Gates Ave, near Ralph, and then here. An 1868 ad in the Brooklyn Eagle advertising available land, mentions the church as the center of the new community developing in the Ninth Ward.

For a small church on the outskirts of town, as it were, little St. Stephen’s was in the news a lot, mostly because of its leaders. After a beloved minister was transferred in 1889, he was replaced by a pastor who made a lot of changes in the church, so many that the congregation voted to have him removed, and he was replaced with someone they liked much better only a year later.

Sometime in the 1890’s, the congregation moved into a new stone church next door, on the corner of Jefferson and Patchen, but that church burned down at some unknown date, and they moved back to the older wooden building.

They would later merge with St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, formerly at 201 President St., becoming St. Stephen and St. Martin. To walk down the street now, and see this New England church amidst the brownstones of Brooklyn is always a treat.

I don’t know when it lost its steeple, which would have added to its charm. I love the little Gothic dormers, and the restrained use of other Gothic trademarks, such as rose windows and stained glass panels. The congregation was Low Church, a very simple, Protestant version of Episcopalianism, and it shows in the design of this church. It’s an important landmark in the eastern part of Bedford Stuyvesant.

Photo via Brooklyn Public Library

[Photos by Suzanne Spellen]