Tuesday, April 24, 2018

With Prospects Of Being Landmarked, The Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten On President Street Returns To Market

Drawing of the building from The Brooklyn Eagle, November 21, 1897
238 President Street and 236 President Street seen in 1912 and today
It would appear that Avo Construction walked away from a deal to purchase the charming former Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten building at 236 President Street in Carroll Gardens.
A new listing for the property was pointed out to us by a reader, who came across it in the New York Times over the week-end.  The two story, one family home is now being marketed by Corcoran instead of Douglas Elliman, but the price remains at $4,950,000. (It was first offered for $5.399 million in June 2017.)

Avo had planned on demolishing the existing structure to make way for a six-story luxury condominium that would utilize the full floor area allowed by the lot’s R6A zoning.

The proposed 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.

Alarmed by the possibility of losing the building, the residents of 238 President Street 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. 

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 community and elected officials overwhelmingly support the effort to landmark 236 President and 238 President Streets, and on April 10, 2018, the NYC LPC unanimously voted to calendar them "for consideration as individual New York City landmark buildings."

Of course, this does not mean that the two buildings have been landmarked, just that the Commission is committed to consider landmark status. However, in the meantime, 236 President Street can not be demolished without prior approval by the Commission until a final vote on its landmark status is taken.

One hopes that a new buyer will appreciate the building's history and will be respectful when planning an addition to realize its full floor area potential. And hopefully,  LPC will vote to protect it for generations to come.

According to the home's listing, Corcoran is planning an open house on April 29th.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you are watching this listing like a hawk.

It wasn't enough to downzone the entire neighborhood. It wasn't enough to get shot down by LPC for the historic district expansion. It wasn't enough to try and rob Stein. We need to keep our beautiful old buildings, especially if it means keeping others out!

Anonymous said...

Just don't understand why they want to destroy such beautiful buildings...this is history of the neighborhood right here..they will build some ugly building with giant ugly windows and a rusted front. It's just a terrible thing that they are allowed to do this to our neighborhood.

Jim Kenna said...

Hi Katia,
Your coverage of 236 President Street is excellent, and reminds me of stories I heard many years ago as a child. My grandfather was John Whidden, one of his sisters was Catherine Whidden. In the late 19th century the Whidden's, who originally came from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, lived on Sullivan Street in Red Hook. Richard Hegarty lived directly behind them on King Street. Catherine and Richard married, and Richard was ordained in the Methodist Episcopal church. He served as the Rev. Hegarty in the First Place Methodist Episcopal church. Catherine was a Deaconess in the church and ran a program at 236 President Street. Catherine died in childbirth in 1921 while giving birth to their daughter, Catherine. Young Catherine eventually graduated from NYU Medical School and practiced medicine in Garden City for several years. The Rev. Hegarty remarried, served in several parishes, including Rockville Centre, Westhampton Beach and Greenwich CT. He passed away in Methodist hospital in the early 1940's. I never met any of these people but remember passing 236 many times as a child walking to the library. I often thought of them then, and your coverage brings it all back. Thank you!

Katia said...

What a lovely memory, Jim. Thanks so much for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Thank god for everyone’s efforts to keep demolishion at bay.
But 14,000 yearly property taxes?! Stunning.
Hope someone who is rich and smart, not rich and thick, buys this property and keeps the renovations inside.
These buildings are the fabric of what makes people love and live here. Unspoiled by silly glass condos. I will admit some
Buildings have been built with their neighbors in mind and have blended. But others? We know.. We know.