St. Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church Historic District

STATUS Designated Historic District

138 Bleecker Street

ARCHITECT: Helmle & Huberty

DATE: 1907-10

STYLE: Spanish Colonial Revival

Brooklyn Bushwick Church Spanish Colonial Revival

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

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