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Church of St. Luke & St. Matthew

Church of St. Luke & St. Matthew

Clinton Avenue, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, United States


In the last decades of the 19th century the city of Brooklyn developed into one of the largest and wealthiest urban centers in the United States. The affluence of the city was reflected in the size and quality of the buildings erected in its residential neighborhoods during the last quarter of the century.

Substantial mansions and rowhouses were erected throughout Brooklyn, but even more important as symbols of the city's established success were grand public monuments such as clubs, schools, philanthropic and cultural institutions, and, most importantly, churches. St. Luke's Protestant Episcopal Church, built in 1888-91 on Clinton Avenue, one of Brooklyn's most elite thoroughfares, is among the largest and finest of the ecclesiastical structures built in the city during the 19th century, and, like the other major buildings from the period, it reflects a sense of optimism in Brooklyn's future.

During the course of the 19th century, Brooklyn developed from a small rural village and farming center into the third most populous city in America. With the advent of reliable ferry service between New York City and Brooklyn, beginning in the 1820's, Brooklyn began to attract middle-class families who were, seeking residential areas that were separate from the commercial life of the city. In New York City, the expansion of business sections into once elegant residential neighborhoods caused the population to more farther and farther north. As land values on Manhattan Island rose, many people chose to move elsewhere. Brooklyn became the choice location for those who found life in New York City to be unpleasant or who could not afford to live in Manhattan. Brooklyn never developed an extensive commercial center, relying instead on New York City for business activity. Thus, Brooklyn became almost entirely a residential community. At the end of the century one historian wrote:

Brooklyn has always been an adjunct of the metropolis rather than a city with a complete civic life of its own, a dwelling-place for business folk and employees who possess moderate incomes, and those of greater means who abhor the feverish and artificial joys of the modern Babel. It is a vast aggregation of home and family life, and of the social pleasures thai: appertain thereto. There is little to be seen in Brooklyn save the streets and avenues, hundreds of miles of them, filled with rows of dwelling houses ....All of Brooklyn, indeed, with the exception of the waterside streets and range of cloud piercing office buildings [in the Down town area]... is the exclusive domain of women and children during the daylight hours.

Daring the 19th century tens of thousands of substantial dwellings were erected in Brooklyn to house this new population. As each .residential section began to develop, church organizations were founded to lend a requisite moral tone to the new neighborhood and fulfill the. spiritual needs of the populace. The tremendous growth of Brooklyn during the 19th. century created fertile ground for the development of new church societies and the erection of fine new church buildings. By 1850, the appellation "City of Churches" had been applied to Brooklyn.

During the period prior to the Civil War, major architects designed fine church buildings in Brooklyn, but few of these were on the scale of those in neighboring New York City. After the Civil War, however, as Brooklyn's wealth increased, its church buildings began to rival those of New York. Churches in the exclusive neighborhoods of Clinton Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, and Grant Square/St. Marks, such as Sr.. Luke's Episcopal Church, the Emmanuel Baptist Church (1887), the First Dutch Reformed Church (1887-89), and the New York Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church (1889-92) are of the scale and architectural sophistication of contemporary churches built in the other large cities of America.

The Church of St. Luke and St, Matthew traces its roots to the founding of Trinity P.E. Church, Brooklyn, in 1835. Soon after its organization. Trinity built a substantial church building on the west side of Clinton Avenue between Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenue. The church was a rubble-stone structure designed in a vernacular Greek Revival style with stone pilasters, a square tower, and a steeple. At the time of its construction, the area surrounding Trinity was a sparsely populated farming neighborhood located at a great distance from the settled parts of Brooklyn. Unfortunately, the Clinton Hill section did not have a population that was large enough to support such a substantial building and the congregation was forced to disband. On December 14, 1841, a new Episcopal organization, St. Luke's Protestant Episcopal Church, was organized in the area and on February 1, 1842, the vestry of the new church voted to purchase the property of Trinity Church. This proved to

8/52 - wrong side of town

8/52 - wrong side of town

Our photo adventures this week took us over the tracks to the bad part of the neighborhood, where we evaded danger after danger and narrowly escaped with our lives.

Okay, not really. It wasn't that big a deal.

Everyone I know worries more about me than I do (about myself.) Maybe it was growing up around New York City, but I've never felt afraid walking alone at night, taking the creepy dark alley shortcut, checking a suspicious noise behind a dumpster, or exploring an abandoned building. Of course, it's all better (and more fun) with company, but I don't mind going at it alone. Or at least with a furry friend.

When I was young, my golden retriever Shadow was my "ghost hunting" companion. Summers in Europe were spent going where few other kids dared to go, with the cover story of searching for monsters (we did have active imaginations) but in reality just seeking an escape from the every day. Our favorite hang out was a locked down sports center with an algae-filled Olympic size pool and two massive locker rooms where everything was mysteriously left behind and ours for the taking. That was the life... the short weeks we spent rummaging around people's desolate belongings or sitting by the poolside watching the curious fish that had manifested in the swampy water before the police finally caught on and barred the basement windows we were using to sneak in. Now, I'm not naive - I know what most of these joints (pun) are used for by kids and why they crack (pun) down on the access points. I was never into that. I just liked the thrill of getting into somewhere forgotten.

As I've grown up and turned to photography, these places have a new appeal. They're absolutely stunning as backdrops (or even as the main subject.) As such, I'd been eyeing a local collect of graffiti walls for a few months now. They're just off the main road I take to one of the nearest parks and shopping clusters. I was waiting for the weather to warm up before I went and did a real shoot, but two weeks ago I drove around the neighborhood just to figure out how I'd get to the exact place I wanted. It's beyond the tracks with only two streets going in from my side, so it took me a while to sort out a route. This week, I wanted to do the challenge of shooting from the hip - which most of us pet photography people do on a daily basis, but for once I didn't have random pictures to just pluck from. Sunday was here and I had nothing, so I loaded Hike up and we decided to go find us a scene.

As soon as I parked, I knew we were in a sketchy area. I saw a loose mangy chow dog trotting down the street not a minute before an equally raggedy cat strolled by. Most of the yards were in ruins; their houses not much better off. Two cars drove past and stopped at the lot in front of me, emitting three hooded men onto the otherwise empty street. By all means, the environment screamed "run away!" But I had come to take a picture, and nothing would make me back down.

Hike and I walked around slowly, passing half a dozen different graffiti collaborations. Street artwork has always impressed me, and I plan on going back to document it properly. It was after 5 already so we couldn't linger too long before light got scarce. I picked a spot and set Hike loose...

Maybe 3 minutes into it, my dog stiffened and perked up. He heard someone coming before I did, thankfully giving me a chance to grab hold of his neck as a group of teenage-looking boys emerged from the broken fence I'd been debating crossing. My watchful dog made me proud as he started barking at them, even though I held him and told him it was all right. The guys seemed friendly enough; I apologized for being on their "turf" and said I was just taking photos. They said it was cool and made small talk, but Hike was still in defensive mode so I leashed him up and excused myself, figuring I'd make due with what I'd gotten.

Anyway, my original point was, I didn't get uncomfortable during any of this. Hike apparently did, but he's a weirdo with strangers. His reactions make me feel even safer, surprisingly. I hope the need never arises where he'd have to actually do something to protect me, but the fact that he seems ready to is comforting. I also know I should probably stop putting us in compromising situations, but it's almost unavoidable considering where I live. I used to think of Indy as being very safe, but recently we've had a lot of crime right around my apartment. Earlier this month, someone was shot and killed across the street from where my grandmother works (not half an hour after she'd left her shift.) This week, a fight broke out in the bar downstairs and I had to walk around a trail of blood in my lobby when I took Hike out in the morning.

Fact is, danger is all around us... Maybe I go looking for it (unintentionally) at times, but I need to live my life to really live it. A huge reason why I know I'm not ready to be a parent any tim

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