A Future for Historic Italian Church in Brownsville?

Our Lady of Loreto, now closed, with recently built low-income housing behind it. (Photo by Lore Croghan via Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

Our Lady of Loreto, now closed, with recently built low-income housing behind it. (Photo by Lore Croghan via Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

More than a century ago, Italian immigrants in the Ocean Hill part of Brownsville built Our Lady of Loreto as a place of their own after enduring discrimination from Catholics of other backgrounds. Now the church, which in more recent decades had catered to a heavily Latino congregation, is empty, even after a victory on the part of advocates to keep it intact, reports Lore Croghan for Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

In 2010, community leaders from the Brooklyn neighborhood, together with longtime Italian-American supporters, helped prevent the building from being demolished to make room for low-income housing. The site was built next to the church and the “neoclassical Roman Renaissance-style cast-stone church designed by Italian immigrant architect Adriano Armezzani” remained standing. But vacant.

Activists want to turn it into a multicultural center and seek to get the church landmarked, perhaps even make it into a “mini-BAM,” Miriam Robertson, executive director of Brownsville Heritage House, told Croghan.

A Società Immacolata Concezione di Calitri group called Figlie di Maria (“Daughters of Mary”) outside Our Lady of Loreto, circa 1930. (Photo courtesy of Mario Toglia via Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

A Società Immacolata Concezione di Calitri group called Figlie di Maria (“Daughters of Mary”) outside Our Lady of Loreto, circa 1930. (Photo courtesy of Mario Toglia via Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

In another story by Lore Croghan, preservation advocates tell the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reporter the historical significance of Our Lady of Loreto to the Italian community:

“This is the only building in New York State that was created entirely by an Italian cadre of artisans,” said Mario Toglia, a researcher for the Committee to Save Our Lady of Loreto Church. The architect, builder, sculptor, interior decorator and painter were all Italian immigrants.

Also, Toglia said, “It’s the last remaining structure that reminds us the Italians were part of the neighborhood.”

Louis J. Gallo Jr., New York state chairman of the Commission for Social Justice, the anti-defamation arm of the Order Sons of Italy in America, pointed to another distinction held by Our Lady of Loreto.

An important point of historical significance, Gallo said, is that Our Lady of Loreto is the oldest “national Italian Catholic church” in Brooklyn that’s still located in its original structure and on its original footprint.

And as for the land the church sits on? That has some Italian history to it too. Find out what that is at Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Also go to the original stories by Croghan for photos from past and present of Our Lady of Loreto.

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