Location: Henry Street at Remsen Street, Brooklyn, NY
Landmark Status: Brooklyn Heights Historic District
Original Architects: Richard Upjohn, Leopold Eidlitz
Dates of Construction: 1844-1846, 1869-1870
Date of Restoration: 2010-2014
Scope of Work: Stone Restoration, Roofing Replacement, Window Door and Louver Replacement, Stone Sidewalk Reconstruction
Now known as Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Cathedral, the church at the corner of Henry and Remsen Streets in Brooklyn Heights was originally designed in the 1840’s by architect Richard Upjohn as Church of the Pilgrims. Dedicated in 1846, it was the first Congregational church in Brooklyn and the first Romanesque Revival ecclesiastical building in America. Renwick’s bold design incorporates a wide, gabled center bay flanked by asymmetrical towers, solid masonry walls with minimal ornament, and round-arched windows and doors. The exterior walls, two to four feet in depth, are constructed of unreinforced rubble back-up masonry faced with tan-gray sienite, locally quarried near the East River, and laid in a coursed, random ashlar bond. In 1944, the church was sold to a Lebanese Catholic congregation. The new congregation soon incorporated bronze medallions from the French luxury liner Normandie into the entrance doors, and replaced the original Tiffany windows (moved by the original congregation to nearby Plymouth Church) with stained glass windows designed by a French artist in the “gemmaux” style.
In 2010, Walter B. Melvin Architects, LLC performed a survey of the Cathedral exterior, interior, and surrounding site. The resulting Master Plan included a narrative description of existing conditions, annotated drawings and photographs, prioritized recommendations for repairs, an estimated budget, and historical documentation.
Two years later, Phase I restoration work at the west elevation, towers, and sidewalk commenced. Work included removal of damaged cementitious patching material and stone surfaces, application of restoration mortar and replacement natural stone to replicate original profiles, replacement of deteriorated stone sills and coping stones with cast stone, crack repairs with concealed stainless steel pins, cutting and pointing, and masonry cleaning. Additionally, the cornice at the north tower was reconstructed, both tower roofs were replaced, and select wood windows, doors and louvers were replaced in-kind. The bluestone sidewalk was also reconstructed.
Phases II and III of the restoration are anticipated in upcoming years.