Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Grand Old Lady

St. Teresa of Avila, the substantial parish church at Sterling and Classon, is older than I thought. The parish was established in 1874, and the sanctuary itself dates from the same year (great old postcard here). Today, the building blends fairly seamlessly into the rest of the neighborhood, but it must have been visible for miles when it was built, an era when Charles Lewis Fussell was painting images of the neighborhood like this one and this one. What little history I could find of 19th century Crown Heights suggests that development kicked off in the 1880s (though I'm sure there's more to the story), so perhaps the establishment of this sturdy church was a harbinger of urbanization for the area.

Today, St. Teresa's offers Sunday Mass in three languages (English, Spanish, and Creole). The school across the street was originally St. Teresa's High, but that school closed in 2002 and was replaced by Brooklyn Jesuit Prep, a middle school. As for St. Teresa herself, she was a 16th century Spanish nun.


  1. hey, i really appreciate your blog. our neighborhood rocks. I've read the sign outside of St.Teresa's but I never noticed they offered Mass in Creole.

  2. When I attended the school from 1980-1987, it was called Holy Spirit, and housed grades 1-8. Such fond memories. Great post!

  3. Awesome article... ever go inside St. Theresa's? Its a little run down, but a really beautiful space. Keep up the good work!

  4. miss st teresa! used to go there!

  5. Hi Nick,

    Very interesting. My grandmother was baptised in this church in July 1891 (about the time of the paintings you link to). Sadly her mother died when she was very young and her father took her back to his native Ireland.

    Wonderful to see the area as my great-grandfather must have seen it.


    Ken Campbell
    Kettering, England

  6. I went to St. Teresa's 1960 Kindergarten thru 7th grade. I was baptized at the church, had my confirmation there, went to confession there and have become the person I am today because of the nuns and my Catholic upbringing in St. Teresa's. I loved that church and school. Thank you so much for this site.

  7. My dad was born around the corner on Park Place in 1900. He had a little sister who died in infancy. The baptismal font was donated by my grandparents in her memory. While my grandmother was recovering from having the baby, Mother Cabrini came over and took care of my dad and his siblings.

  8. Wow how amazing to find this! My parents were married there, I believe my father and his brother were baptized there along with myself and 4 of my brothers. My parents both went to school there in the 40's and 50's. My mother went to a white elephant sale there in the 50's and won a Hummel Madonna.