Friday, July 22, 2016

Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Family – San Damiano Mission

Red brick church facade facing southeast
Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Family - San Damiano Mission
Neighborhood: Greenpoint
Address: 21 Nassau Avenue

I often pass this church at night when I work late, miss the ferry home and end up slumming it on the L Train. When I pass it, the lights are usually on and the front interior doors are open, allowing a vibrant glow to emanate from the entrance. The Roman Catholic San Damiano Mission leaders who now run the church have done a good job of making the church seem inviting in an otherwise industrial looking corner of Greenpoint. Every time I walk by I can’t help but want to walk in.

Two story red brick house on church property
Church Rectory
Three story red brick parochial school building on church property
Parochial School
Church History
Slovak immigrants of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy established the Slovak parish of the Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Family in 1905. The congregation first met in the basement of St. Vincent De Paul Church (demolished) on North 4th Street in Williamsburg while their new sanctuary was under construction. Their new house of worship at Nassau Avenue and N 15th Street was completed in 1911. Shortly after moving into their new church, attendance grew to 1,500 parishioners.  In addition, a parochial school fronting Nassau Avenue was added in 1918.  The school closed in 1970 and is now a daycare. In 2011 the Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Family merged with the Church of Saint Anthony of Padua. Then, in 2015, the church became the Roman Catholic San Damiano Mission.

Red brick church facade facing north
Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Family - San Damiano Mission
The church's design style is Romanesque Revival. The red brick building’s architectural features include a corbeled brick gable, Romanesque arched fenestration, limestone trim and a verdigris dome capped tower. Unfortunately, I can’t find the name of the church's architect.

  • Cook, Terry Sacred Havens of Brooklyn Charleston South Carolina: The History Press, 2013
  • Brian Merlis & Riccardo Gomes Brooklyn's Historic Greenpoint Gomerl Publishing, NJ 2015
  • Mcmahon, Joe "San Damiano Mission, Greenpoint" Brooklyn Catholic 6 May, 2015

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Riverside Apartments

Red brick fortress like building with black metal balconies
Riverside Apartments
Neighborhood: Brooklyn Heights
Address: 2-34 Columbia Place

Alfred T. White commissioned the Riverside Apartments. White was a successful businessman that attained his wealth from the fur trade, although, he was trained as a civil engineer. His success came at a time when most working class families lived in some degree of squalor. He believed that the working poor had a right to dignified housing, so he set out to create a new model for worker housing. White’s mantra regarding his real estate developments was“philanthropy plus 5%”. The Riverside apartments featured amenities uncommon in tenement buildings at the time and were White’s contribution to elevating the living standard of working New Yorkers. Other tenement buildings commissioned by White include the Tower and Home Buildings in Cobble Hill.

Arched green door with steps on red brick building
Entrance & Arched Stairwell Openings
Double arched window like openings for stairwells
Arched Stairwell Openings with Terracotta Trim
Black metal balcony hallways with hanging plants
Perforated Metal Railings
Designed by William Field & Son in an eclectic Romanesque – Italianate style, the Riverside Apartments were built in 1890. The building’s architectural embellishments include arcaded loggias, perforated metal railings, brick patterns, corbeling and terracotta ornamental detailing. Architectural innovations for tenement housing featured in the design included a toilet in each unit, open stair towers to ameliorate foul odors common in closed tenement stairwells, and a spacious central courtyard with a band shell. In addition, the building’s design afforded residents more natural light and fresh air than most tenements from the period. According to the AIA Guide Alfred T. White’s buildings are the “original limited-profit housing, predating the City and State’s first “limited-dividend” projects (Stuyvesant Town) by 57 years”. However, there is another comparable building that comes to mind. The Astral Apartments in Greenpoint were built with a similar vision.

Aerial photo of Riverside Houses within Brooklyn Heights

Although the Riverside apartments take up most of a city block, there were once more of them. The complex was truncated by the BQE when four of the nine buildings were removed to make way for the thoroughfare. Also relinquished was the building’s central garden. The original affordable housing complex had a capacity of 280 families, utilizing forty nine percent of the lot for structures and the rest for open space. Apartment sizes had a range from two to four rooms. Rents were on a sliding scale with prices based on floor level and unit size.

  • Gray, Christopher "Streetscapes: The Riverside Buildings; A Model Tenement in Dickensian Style" New York Times 23 August 1992
  • White, Norval, Willensky, Elliot, and Leadon, Fran AIA Guide to New York. Oxford University Press, 2010
  • McCormick, Tim "History Buff: The Riverside Apartments" Brownstoner 22 August, 2006
  • McCormick, Tim "ARchitecture 101: The Riverside Apartments" Brownstoner 9 May, 2005

Friday, July 1, 2016

Leverich Towers Hotel

Wide angle photo looking at corner of building
Leverich Towers
One of the towers on the Leverich Hotel
Leverich Towers Tower
Historic gold colored, covered building entrance
Leverich Towers Entrance
Neighborhood: Brooklyn Heights
Address: 25 Clark Street


Built in 1926 as the Leverich Towers Hotel, the sixteen-story building was designed by architecture firm Starrett & Van Vleck. Starrett & Van Vleck are also known for designing the Macy’s building in Downtown Brooklyn, as well as the Lord & Taylor and Sacks Fifth Avenue stores in Manhattan.[1][2] The building is a Romanesque Revival style structure with Venetian influenced towers punctuating the building’s corners. The four colonnaded towers were once lit at night.[3] The architectural embellishments include a visually solid base of ashlar-patterned stone, arched windows, corbeled brick patterns and terracotta ornamentation.

Aerial view of sixteen story Leverich Towers Hotel
Bird's Eye View
Building History
The building was used as accommodations for the Brooklyn Dodgers during home games and at one time a Yidish language radio station was headquartered there.[4] Like many buildings in New York during the 1970s, the hotel fell into disrepair as the city fell on hard times. It was during this period, in 1975, that The Jehovah’s Witnesses purchased the property for less than two million dollars. The religious group converted the former hotel into condos and used the building to house their growing staff employed at their Brooklyn headquarters. Today the building features “295 residential units, a rooftop terrace and lounge, a commercial kitchen, dining rooms, medical offices and a clinic”.[1] And, for only one hundred and forty million dollars it can all be yours. The Jehovah's Witnesses put the building on the market in March.

Jehovah's Witness Real Estate 
The Witnesses have been putting their many DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights properties on the market as they prepare to relocate their headquarters to Upstate. They have been in Brooklyn since 1909. Other properties they have unloaded in recent years include the Standish Arms on Columbia Heights for fifty million dollars and the Bossert Hotel on Montague Street for eighty one million dollars. According to Brooklyn Paper the organization is also in the process of putting their main office building on the market.[5]

  1. Leon, Alexandra "Jehovah's Witnesses Selling Historic Brooklyn Heights Hotel" DNA Info 25 May, 2016
  2. Spellen, Suzanne "Building of the Day: 25 Clark Street" Brownstoner 27 September, 2012
  3. White, Norval, Willensky, Elliot, and Leadon, Fran AIA Guide to New York. Oxford University Press, 2010
  4. Scales, Claude "Watchtower Puts Brooklyn Heights Hotel on Market" Brooklyn Heights Blog 25 May, 2016
  5. Gill, Lauren "Opportunity Knocks! Jehovah's Witnesses Selling Brooklyn Heights Hotel" Brooklyn Paper 26 May, 2016