Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Unlikely Survivor

The tiny corner of East New York between Atlantic, Jamaica, and Pennsylvania Avenues is the last place I'd expect to find a well-preserved wooden church. Squashed between a pair of avenues dominated by muffler shops and equipment rental outlets and the sprawling railyards just east of Broadway Junction, the area is barely residential, and the building stock is a mix of low-squatting modern cinder-block affairs and the occasional tattered, vinyl-sided, three-story apartment building. And yet, Brooklyn never fails to requite my love of old wooden churches, even in the most unlikely spots.

The Wartburg Chapel, pictured above from the street and the platform of the Alabama Avenue J-Z stop, was built in 1875 to serve the area's Lutheran community. The East New York Project has an image from a postcard in 1962 that suggests the chapel has since been moved, along with a great anecdote from a former resident reminscing about the lovely grounds and gardens that have since been built up. Forgotten NY has something on the chapel, but I can never get their pages to load.

Today, the chapel grounds are surrounded by a whitewashed fence and totally inaccessible from the street. However, the building itself still functions as a place of worship, serving the residents of the Wartburg Lutheran Home for the Aging that rises up next to it. The current owners are even trying to recreate the fondly-remembered tranquility in the churchyard: you can donate to their Garden of Peace project here.

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