by Kevin Walsh

THERE I was, half crazy from the heat and humidity, stumbling around Carroll Gardens on a July weekday, yet another neighborhood that because of income disparity I had no business being in. I had wandered all the way down Court, got past the gauntlet at Hamilton Avenue with its pedal-to-the-metal truck traffic, tiptoed past the Red Hook Houses, slipped past the Hamilton gauntlet once again (all this will turn up on a FNY page eventually) and was heading back up Henry toward the Clark Street station to catch the #2 or 3, when I happened past an artifact I can rarely resist taking a photo of at Henry and Rapelye.

It’s this simple peaked brick building, originally the St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, organized in 1872 in a neighborhood then called South Brooklyn because it was literally in the southern end of the City of Brooklyn when built. Real estate developers bestowed the Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens names in the Super Seventies. The building itself went up in 1878 and services were held here until the 1940s or so; it was still a church when this photo was taken in 1940.

Check out the faded painted sign on the clerestory window…for the Luso-American Cultural Center. You’ve heard of the Lusitania, the passenger liner sunk by a German submarine in the Atlantic in 1915. The Lusitani, or the Lusitanians, were an Indo-European people residing on the western section of the Iberian peninsula conquered by the Romans. After the fall of the Empire and invasions by and expulsions of the Moors over the ensuing millennia, the peninsula sorted itself out into the kingdoms of Spain and Portugal. It’s possible that Lisboa, or Lisbon, is also a derivative of the name.

In the early 20th Century, Portuguese immigrants were streaming into the NYC area, along with other nationalities, to take the many jobs available when NYC still had seaside ports. This served as sort of a cultural clubhouse. I’m not sure if it’s defunct in 2021, but in 2011, Brooks of Sheffield at Lost City was able to get in during a gathering of some kind.

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Rob July 29, 2021 - 5:32 am

Lusitania was sunk a few miles off the coast of Ireland.

John Ulrich July 29, 2021 - 6:48 pm

The ship was torpedod about 10 miles off the Irish coast. Not the Mid-Atlantic.
The history of the name Lusitania is very interesting . I learn every day from you.

Peter July 30, 2021 - 5:14 pm

As there were many fishing boats in the area, being so close to shore, there was about a 40% survival rate. That was remarkable as it sank in less than 20 minutes and only a few lifeboats could be launched.

Peter July 29, 2021 - 8:12 pm

Not far from me in Farmingville, in Suffolk County, there’s a large modern Portuguese Cultural Center. It has several large satellite dishes, presumably for catching soccer games from Portugal.

OLDSKOOL August 2, 2021 - 11:59 am

Long-time South Brooklyn/Carroll Gardens resident and expert here. This building has always had a mysterious, haunted feel to it, I totally get why you’re attracted to it. For decades I have never seen any activity in its radius. And every time I exit the BQE and head up Rapelye Street, there it is like a beacon guiding me to Henry Street, forcing me to turn right before a few more twists deeper into Carroll Gardens. Since I mentioned Henry Street Kevin, I am sure you traveled this street end-to-end. In my opinion, it is one of the most charming throughways of Brooklyn (considering it is a commercial path) but did you ever study how its character falls off at the ends? (the exception being the well-named Henry’s End restaurant)


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