CARROLL GARDENS – On Tuesday morning, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) designated the former Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten located at 236 President Street, and an adjoining building at 238 President, as individual landmarks.
“The Commission is proud to designate the Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten at 236 President Street and 238 President Street,” LPC Vice Chair Frederick Bland said in a statement. “These two properties are distinguished by their architecture and share a great history of education and social reform in Brooklyn.”
In March, Council Member Brad Lander and Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon joined Carroll Gardens residents and community groups to call on the LPC to landmark the two buildings since 236 President was in the process of being sold to a developer with plans to demolish the historic building and replace it with a six-story condo.
236 President Street was built in 1897 and served as the first public kindergarten in Brooklyn—the Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten. Elmira Christian built the school to honor her late husband and serve the area’s growing immigrant community. The two were active members of the Brooklyn Free Kindergarten Society and the Brooklyn Methodist Episcopal Church.
The building later became the home of the First Methodist Episcopal congregation—the first Spanish-speaking parish in Brooklyn that was founded by Reverend Alberto B. Baez, the grandfather of folk singer/activist Joan Baez. Earlier this year, Baez penned a letter expressing her support in saving the two buildings.
In 1974, the two President Street properties were sold to separate parties. The original buyers of 236 passed away a few years ago and left the property to their children.
Converted into co-ops in 1984, 238 President Street was built in 1853 in the Anglo-Italian style. It was the first building erected on the block between Court and Clinton Streets. Mrs. Christian purchased the building in 1897 for the Brooklyn Deaconess Home, a residence and training facility for deaconesses—women who worked with local immigrant communities.
“I’m beyond thrilled that the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to preserve 236 and 238 President Street in Carroll Gardens,” Council Member Lander said in a statement. “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.”
“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,” Assembly Member Simon added. “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.”
Approximately 1,600 neighbors signed a petition to preserve the two President Street properties and at a LPC public hearing in June several community members testified in favor of landmarking the buildings. Opposition only came from the current owners of 236 President who reportedly said they’d sue the LPC if their building was made a landmark, noting that its facade has been altered over the years, making it unworthy of landmark status.
The previous sale of 236 President fell through and the property went back on the market in April for nearly $5 million. The home is currently listed at $4.45 million.
The Carroll Gardens Historic District was designated in 1973 and is one of the smallest in the city, consisting of only two blocks. Because of this, the President Street block where 236 and 238 are situated is not covered by preservation protections. Along with today’s landmarking of the two President Street properties, the community would also like LPC to expand the neighborhood’s historic district.