St. Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church, one of the most unusual and distinctive ecclesiastical buildings in New York City, was built between 1907 and 1910, and is one of the earliest churches in the northeastern United States to incorporate the Spanish Colonial Revival style of architecture, which is fairly uncommon in the region. Constructed of yellow brick and white terra-cotta, the church towers above the lowrise residences of the surrounding area, and is one of Bushwick’s most imposing buildings.
St. Barbara’s parish, which was founded in 1893 by German immigrant families, has continued to serve successive waves of residents of varying ethnicities and nationalities. The church was designed by Helmle & Huberty, a leading Brooklyn architectural firm that was responsible for many important public and institutional buildings. The firm’s buildings were designed in a wide variety of styles and include such landmarks as the Boathouse in Prospect Park and the Winthrop Park Shelter Pavilion in Monsignor McGoldrick Park, as well as many buildings located within designated historic districts.
The Spanish Colonial Revival style is unusual for a church in the northeastern United States, particularly for one built as early as 1907. The style, based in the architecture of 16th- and 17th-century Spain, often combines large unornamented wall areas with sections that are embellished with highly ornate and complex classically inspired forms. The entryways are generally given the most ornate treatment.
Spanish architecture was brought to the New World by the early settlers in Mexico and the American Southwest. The design of St. Barbara’s appears to have been inspired by the mission churches built in these areas. St. Barbara’s follows the basic form of Roman Catholic churches of the Renaissance. The church is cruciform in plan and a large Renaissance-inspired dome covers the church crossing.
The church’s Central Avenue facade has a terra-cotta frontispiece in the form of a triumphal arch that gives emphasis to the main facade. This frontispiece is enlivened by projecting Corinthian columns, squat twisted columns, sculptural panels and bands, and a projecting rounded pediment. Heavy unornamented brick pavilions with terra-cotta quoins flank the entryway, crowned by decorated terra-cotta towers. The facade of the north transept on Bleecker Street is designed as a smaller, less elaborate frontispiece
STATUS Designated Historic District
“I don’t know what the City would be without HDC. [They] testified before LPC time after time and helped us focus on the right issues. We would not be an historic district without HDC! ”
Doreen Gallo: DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance
“Use HDC as a resource because they know what they are doing and can offer advice on how to go about creating a district from every front: architectural, political, LPC, and the media. I had floundered prior to my involvement with this invaluable organization.”
Fern Luskin: Lamartine Place Historic District; Friends of Lamartine Place & Gibbons Underground Railroad Site
“HDC provided guidance and shared information during that process—we knew which Council members were going one way or another and we changed a few minds. I don’t think NoHo would have had as cohesive a district had it not been for HDC’s aid.”
Zella Jones: NoHo Historic District; NoHo East; and NoHo Extension
“I remember Richard saying at a meeting, we have someone here from HDC, Nadezhda Williams, Director of Preservation and Research, to help us. She said to us, ‘You are not the only ones going through this.’ HDC included us in an enormous community”
Erika Petersen: West End Preservation Society