A Call to Protect Historic Carroll Gardens Kindergarten

Assembly member Jo Anne Simon (far left) and Council member Brad Lander (second from left) call on LPC to landmark 238 and 236 President St. (Photo by Pamela Wong via Bklyner)

Residents and preservationists in Carroll Gardens joined Council member Brad Lander and Assembly member Jo Anne Simon on March 23 in asking the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to landmark 236 President St. and 238 President St., report Pamela Wong for Bklyner and Julianne Cuba for Brooklyn Paper.

The building at 236 was recently sold to a developer who is looking to knock it down and construct a luxury apartment building in its place. It was built in 1897 as the Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten, Brooklyn’s first public kindergarten and later, the borough’s first Spanish-speaking house of worship from 1950-1966. The neighboring building, constructed in 1853, served as a residence that housed teachers, and later family members of the church’s founder, Rev. Alberto Baez, a Mexican immigrant who founded the First Methodist Episcopal congregation, and grandfather of Joan Baez. The folk singer lent her support in a letter read aloud at the gathering.

Bklyner’s Wong included part of Joan Baez’s statement:

“In addition to their architectural beauty, these two buildings are of unique social and historical significance, and they should be protected and celebrated,” Baez’s statement began. “Brooklyn’s past was illuminated by the waves of immigrants who came to America seeking a better life and that legacy is alive in the structures representing those who lived and worked there.”

For more on the history of the two buildings, its proximity to the protected Carroll Gardens Historic District, and the current status of 236 President St., visit Bklyner and Brooklyn Paper.

Also read coverage from Brooklyn Daily Eagle’s Lore Croghan, who notes that the kindergarten was named for the immigrant husband of the woman who purchased 238 President St.

Neighborhood resident Elmira Christian donated money to fund the operation of a kindergarten for First Place Methodist Episcopal Church. She bought 238 President St., a building with a 75-foot-wide lot — and constructed a stand-alone kindergarten on the lot in 1897.

She took these actions to honor her late husband, Norwegian immigrant Hans S. Christian.

He had died on the way home from a prayer meeting at the church. The church was important to him. He’d been one of its founders and its board president and taught Sunday school there.

In that era, Brooklyn public schools did not have kindergarten classes. Free kindergarten was considered a means of improving the lives of impoverished families.

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