Monday, February 26, 2018

Urgent: Help Save The Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten Building On President Street In Carroll Gardens As It Faces Imminent Demolition

Drawing of the building from The Brooklyn Eagle, November 21, 1897
238 President Street and 236 President Street seen in 1912 and today

In November 2017, PMFA alerted the Carroll Gardens neighborhood to the fact that the small beige brick home at 236 President Street, between Court Street and Clinton Street may be in danger of being torn down. At the time, this ornate and unusual building was listed with Alex Calabretta of Douglas Elliman in such a way as to appeal to developers who would take full advantage of the building's R6A zoning and its remaining floor area.

"Live in this truly unique home while developing a project that could fund your retirement. This extremely sturdy, 2 story structure could potentially support an additional 5 floors of living space totaling over 10,000 sq. feet. With possibly up to 16 dwelling units this property could provide a sellout of over $15,000,000 at today's market prices for new condos in the area. Bring your Manhattan developers looking to dip their toes into coveted markets - Carroll Gardens."

236 President Street soon went into contract, and we now know that Avo Construction, the buyer, is planning on closing on it at the beginning of March.  (Avo is the construction company behind the condo building at 210 Pacific Street).
At an initial meeting with members of the board from the adjoining buildings at 232 and 238 President and St. Paul’s Church at the intersection of Carroll and Clinton Streets, the developer expressed the intention to demolish the original building in order to erect a six-story luxury condominium that would utilize the full area allowed by the lot’s R6A zoning.

The demolition of 236 President Street would rob Carroll Gardens of an important part of its history. The two-story, stand-alone structure was designed by Hough & Duell in 1897 as the Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten in tribute to Hans S. Christian by his widow. A Norwegian immigrant, Christian lived at 231 President Street and owned a lime and brick factory on Second Street in Gowanus.

The building's uniqueness was mentioned in a November 1897 article in the Brooklyn Eagle, which covered the Kindergarten's dedication. "It is the only building of its kind in Brooklyn, so far as known, and one of the very few in existence in the City."

Though built exclusively as a kindergarten, complete with cloak room, teachers' parlor, matron's quarters, pantry, janitor's room and sun-filled classrooms, the building was transformed into a residence decades ago.

To save the building,  the residents of 238 President Street have reached out to New York City's Landmark Preservation Commission to request expeditious historic landmark designation for the “Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten”, as well as their own building, which predates it by 45 years and once housed the "Brooklyn Deaconess Home and Training School of the Methodist Episcopal Church."
In effect, the two buildings share much history.  In  February 1897, Mrs. Elmira Christian, Hans Christian's widow, purchased 238 President Street and deeded it to the Brooklyn Church Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. in her husband's memory. The building would became the “Brooklyn Deaconess Home and Training School of the Methodist Episcopal Church.”  The school's charitable activities would serve the needs of immigrant families in the area.
The Christian Memorial Kindergarten was erected by Elmira Christian as a free standing structure on her property. Both buildings shared the same building parcel until 1974.

The residents of 238 President Street and their neighbors believe strongly that the preservation of both these local historical properties is integral to the appeal and substance of  Carroll Gardens.

We need to come together as a community to show our support. Please consider sending a letter of support for landmarking to the Landmark Preservation Commission, Community Board 6 and Councilmember Brad Lander. All you have to do is to send the following text or your own via email:

To:,, and
"This March,  236 President Street will be sold to a developer who plans to demolish the building and replace it with a six-story luxury condominium that will rise 70 feet, taller than any other building on the block. 
236 President Street, designed by Hough & Duell and built in 1897, is an integral part of Carroll Gardens' history and as the former Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten, holds significance for New York City.
I support saving Carroll Gardens' history by giving 236 and 238 President Street landmark status."

You can use the QR code provided below if you have an updated iPhone or Android-based smart phone. Just point your phone's camera at the symbol below. It will bring you to an automatically generated email message to LPC, CB6 and Lander.

No matter how you voice your support, please do it TODAY as time is of the essence! And please encourage others to do the same.

Thanks, neighbors.


Anonymous said...

So, the main opposition to this focuses on parking?

To quote Silvio Dante, "disgusting".

Anonymous said...

Whats disgusting is greedy developers coming into our neighborhood making it look like Hong Kong

fondofellipses said...

This is sad news, another beautiful building being destroyed for luxury condos. Is there anything more that can be done besides sending emails?

Katia said...

I am in communication with the residents of 238 President, who are organizing this. Will update the community about this landmarking effort as soon as there is further news.

Anonymous said...

The article does not mention parking. The photo of a sign included in the article cites to parking, sure, but also historical value and implies concern regarding the blocking of light. How is this disgusting? Parking is tight around here, and a legit concern (among others). Are you the developer?

Anonymous said...

The opposition to this couldn't have anything to do with the fact that this is LITERALLY in the backyard of these folks organizing this? The definition of NIMBY.

Anonymous said...

Anyone rich enough to own a car and get free street parking at the expense of those of us that don't should really do some soul searching and see if space for families to live is less important than space for their private movable steel box.

Anonymous said...

Can someone explain why this building would be permitted to rise 70 feet. I understood the height limit for the neighborhood was 50 feet. I thought this was imposed after the debacle on Smith St and Second Place.

Thank you.

Jim said...

The more things change the more they stay the same.

Becky said...

This is horrifying and saddening. I sent the email; hope it works asap.

Anonymous said...

This was one of the first -- if not THE first -- freestanding, "purpose-built" kindergarten buildings in Brooklyn.

It isn't just significant for Carroll Gardens, but for Brooklyn and for early childhood education in New York.

Free kindergartens were a new concept in the late 19th century. Initially kindergartens were for the wealthy and typically were operated by women of "a certain class." An advocacy (and philanthropic) movement began in American cities to create free kindergartens as a means to serve poor children -- initially in Boston, St. Louis, San Francisco and Chicago. Interest built in New York and the City of Brooklyn in the 1880's, and churches and women's clubs began to create kindergartens, leading to the formation of the Brooklyn Free Kindergarten Association in 1891. It's the same movement that created settlement houses and tenement laws.

That was the context for Mrs. Christian to donate this property to the Brooklyn Free Kindergarten Association to build a new free kindergarten and name it in honor of her late husband.

The kindergarten movement, of which this is a rare physical survivor, was a nod toward equity (albeit with a more maternalistic/paternalistic sensibility).

At the very least, consider it a precursor (or prerequisite) for universal pre-k.

This history should be celebrated, not destroyed.

Anonymous said...

email sent! good luck and let's hope we can preserve this neighborhood gem :)

Anonymous said...

I had the good fortune to live in and help restore 238 President St. It is truly a thing of beauty, and definitely a landmark. It is an amazing piece of history, pre dating Carroll Gardens. I have an early drawing of the building, surrounded by farmland, with views down the grassy hill, all the way to the waterfront. Only sheep. No immigrants, like my grandparents, had arrived yet. There was no President St as we know it today. It predates all the other buildings in the area. If I remember correctly, it was owned by a wealthy merchant, as a single family home.
It was standing strong before the civil war. As beautiful inside as it was out.
It's buildings like this one, and that gorgeous little house next door.... And all the other wonderful brownstones in the area, --- well they ARE what makes Carroll Gardens so lovely. Do you really want to lose that beauty, - that historical connection? I think not.

Developers can profit as well, by restoring not destroying.

Anonymous said...

We're losing New York. This is tragic.

Anonymous said...

What is the source of that wonderful 1912 image?

Anonymous said...

Ironically if these greedy developers succeed they advertise the 'luxury' condos as located in a beautiful historic neighborhood.