FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 18, 2018
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LPC Designates 236 And 238 President Street In Brooklyn As Individual Landmarks
These two historic buildings associated to Elmira Christian, an advocate for early childhood education, are architecturally and culturally significant representations of the residential development and rich history of Carroll Gardens.
NEW YORK – Today, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) designated the Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten at 236 President Street and 238 President Street in Brooklyn as individual landmarks. These two historic buildings associated to Elmira Christian, an advocate for early childhood education, are architecturally and culturally significant representations of the residential development and rich history of Carroll Gardens.
“The Commission is proud to designate the Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten at 236 President Street and 238 President Street,” said Landmarks Preservation Commission Vice Chair Frederick Bland. “These two properties are distinguished by their architecture and share a great history of education and social reform in Brooklyn.”
The Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten is considered the first purpose-built free kindergarten in Brooklyn. The concept was relatively new in 1897, when Elmira Christian commissioned its construction in honor of her late husband to serve the growing immigrant community in the area. They were both active members of the Brooklyn Methodist Episcopal Church and the Brooklyn Free Kindergarten Society, and she was instrumental in establishing the first free kindergarten in Brooklyn at the Warren Street Methodist Church in 1884.
Designed by architects William C. Hough and Edgar Deuell, Jr., the Han S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten was built as a model kindergarten. It featured a reception room near the entrance, large classrooms with abundant natural light and air, and a visitors’ gallery for people to see the kindergarten experiment in action. Its elegant Beaux-Arts façade includes an entrance portico with ornate details and a frieze panel that still bears the visible imprint of letters reading “Christian Memorial.”
Mrs. Christian purchased the adjacent 238 President Street house in 1897 for the Brooklyn Church Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church to use as the Brooklyn Deaconess Home, a training center and home for deaconesses – women who spread the Gospel and helped Brooklyn’s poor, immigrant communities. The three-story Anglo-Italianate style mansion built in 1853 was one of the largest and most luxurious houses in Carroll Gardens, housing several wealthy families. When Mrs. Christian bought it, she renovated it and added a fourth story harmoniously designed by the young Beaux-Arts-trained architect Woodruff Leeming. She fell ill shortly afterward and passed away in 1899, but left endowments for the renovations and the kindergarten construction, and donated both properties to the Methodist Episcopal Church.
While the Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten was relocated in 1908, the building continued to serve the community, first as an industrial school, under the direction of the Deaconess Home, and then as a church for new immigrant families. The Deaconess Home relocated in 1938, and the following year, 238 President Street became the home of Reverend Alberto B. Baez and his family. Rev. Baez and his wife Thalia were the founders of the First Spanish Methodist Church, New York City’s oldest Spanish-language Methodist church. They used the adjacent kindergarten building for their Spanish services from 1949 to the late-1960s. He and his wife are also notable as the parents of prominent physicist Albert Baez and grandparents of the internationally renowned musician and activist Joan Baez. Today, the Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten is a private residence and 238 President Street is an apartment building. Their well-preserved exteriors reflect their rich social and cultural history.
“I’m beyond thrilled that the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to preserve 236 and 238 President Street in Carroll Gardens,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “The beautiful, historic nature of many of the buildings in Carroll Gardens is one reason why so many people love living in the neighborhood, and these buildings, one of them being the first stand-alone kindergarten in Brooklyn, reflect the rich history of the neighborhood. I’m deeply grateful to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for listening to the appeal of our community. Huge props go to the co-op owners at 238 President Street, especially to Jim & Grace Protos, Philip Mindlin and to Judge Mike Pesce, who helped to sound the alarm bell, and sought to have their own building landmarked alongside, showing the true spirit of neighborhood that makes Carroll Gardens a great place. Thanks also to Katia Kelly, Glenn Kelly and John Hatheway for their leadership, to Simeon Bankoff of the Historic Districts Council, and to Representative Nydia Velazquez, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, State Senator Brian Kavanagh, and Brooklyn Community Board 6 who joined in the effort, and to the nearly 1,600 neighbors for signing our petition to preserve our community history.”
“The landmark designation of 236 and 238 President Street preserves an important part of Carroll Gardens' history while enhancing the character of this culturally vibrant neighborhood,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “I congratulate our community on this achievement that celebrates the legacy of the Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten and the Brooklyn Deaconess Home.”
“I am pleased to see the community come together to preserve two rich cultural treasures of Carroll Gardens,” said Congress Member Nydia M. Velázquez. “With this designation, we are reminded of the powerful historical meaning retained in these two sites. One, 236 President Street, was built to house Brooklyn’s first free kindergarten, to help a growing local immigrant population send their children to school. The other, 238 President Street, was first a home for deaconesses who helped Brooklyn’s poor, and eventually, home to the founders of New York City’s oldest Spanish-language Methodist church. These buildings are more than just brick and mortar, their history reflects the longstanding commitment of Brooklynites to serving their neighbors and community.”
“All those who are concerned about preserving New York's historical and architectural heritage owe a debt of gratitude to the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association, Community Board 6, and the community leaders and residents who brought these buildings to our attention and sought to have them protected by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and to the Commission for responding promptly to the community’s request and for acting decisively,” said Senator Brian Kavanagh.
“These two structures provide a unique and highly sought after sense of place and neighborhood character, and I am thrilled that they have now been formally designated as individual landmarks,” said Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon. “The distinct architecture and history of the two buildings enhances the uniqueness of the Carroll Gardens community. Preserving these buildings is the right way to connect our city to its past as we continue to move forward. I’m proud to have stood with Council Member Lander, Representative Velazquez, and the Carroll Gardens community to preserve these unique neighborhood structures.”
About the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC)
The Landmarks Preservation Commission is the mayoral agency responsible for protecting and preserving New York City’s architecturally, historically and culturally significant buildings and sites. Since its creation in 1965, LPC has granted landmark status to more than 36,000 buildings and sites, including 1,413 individual landmarks, 120 interior landmarks, 11 scenic landmarks, and 143 historic districts and extensions in all five boroughs. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/landmarks and connect with us via www.facebook.com/NYCLandmarks and www.twitter.com/nyclandmarks.