The National Historic Landmark church now known as St. Ann & the Holy Trinity was built as the Church of the Holy Trinity by Brooklyn paper manufacturer Edgar Bartow who wanted a magnificent edifice for the City of Brooklyn, with pews that were rent-free. He built it between 1844 and 1847 on the highest point in Brooklyn Heights, which was sparsely settled with some large merchants’ homes, small homes and shops and a number of unfinished streets and vacant lots. Bartow purchased the site’s eight lots from the nearby estate of Hezekiah B. Pierrepont (his wife’s family).
Bartow chose architect Minard LaFever to design the church and adjoining chapel and rectory, which are considered to be the finest achievement of LaFever’s career. An important example of Gothic Revival architecture in America, the richly ornamented church is notable for its elaborately vaulted roof and window tracery. The church’s official opening was April 25, 1847, although the building was not fully complete. A 275-foot tower was designed but not fully built until 1869. Before it was removed in 1906 due to concerns about falling stone and the cost of replacement, its spire was the most visible landmark in Brooklyn and was used by ship captains to navigate the harbor.
The exterior is clad in porous brownstone over a brick core. Inside, the walls are of plaster colored and textured to look like stone. The nave is 145 feet long and 42 feet wide. The intricate fan-vaulted ceiling is 63 feet high. The pews are of black walnut. The current altar, brass chancel rail, pulpit, reredos, and chancel tiling were part of an 1899 renovation. Throughout the richly decorated interior, vines and botanical ornamentation embellish the arches and vault groins of the gothic-style architecture.
The church’s famous elaborate windows further enhance the opulence of the interior. A suite of 55 stained glass windows was designed by William Jay Bolton, assisted by his brother John, in Pelham, N.Y. (of which 54 remain).
Bolton’s work predated that of Tiffany and LaFarge by some 40 years and constitute the first set of figural stained glass windows ever made in North America. Unusually colorful and “modern” for their time, they are now considered the finest early 19th century stained glass in America and are cited internationally in guides to New York City.
Scenes from the Old Testament are in the clerestory (top) windows, stories from the life of Christ are at the balcony level, and a unique, horizontal Old Testament “Jesse Tree” (the ancestors of Jesus) is at the ground level. Read More
The Peabody Memorial Organ
Built by Ernest M. Skinner as his Opus #524, the Peabody Memorial Organ is the third instrument to be installed since the church opened in 1847. The organ was designed by Louis Robert and was the gift to the church from financier George Foster Peabody in memory of his brother. The organ comprises 4,718 pipes, ranging from 2 inches to 32 feet in length, as well as 20 chimes and a 61-note celesta. In 1999, it was recognized by the Organ Historical Society as “An Historic Instrument of Special Merit”—the musical equivalent of Landmark status. It is the largest essentially unchanged E.M. Skinner organ in New York City. Over the years, it developed many dead notes. Many of the chimes and most of the celesta do not play. Current restoration efforts are aimed at returning all of these elements to playable condition and to restore the instrument to its original splendor. Read More
St. Ann’s Since 1970
The parish of The Church of the Holy Trinity was dissolved in 1957. The building was closed and stood mostly vacant until 1969 when St. Ann’s parish, the oldest Episcopal congregation in Brooklyn, decided to relocate into the building from its church on nearby Livingston Street. In honor of the building’s origin, the parish took the new name, St. Ann & the Holy Trinity. Therefore, the name indicates not the merger of two parishes, but instead the continuing life of a body of faithful Episcopalians who have worshiped in Brooklyn for more than 230 years.
The church deteriorated severely over the decade it was closed. To assist in addressing the grave disrepair and deteriorated conditions of the building, the nonprofit St. Ann’s Center for Restoration and the Arts was established in 1983. During its residency at the church, it was instrumental in, among other things, stabilizing and/or restoring portions of the exterior, the façade, nave roof, and, notably, a majority of the Bolton stained glass windows, even as it successfully established its own performing arts program. Relocated to DUMBO in 2000, it is now known as St. Ann’s Warehouse.
The building, the windows, and the organ together make a collection of treasures unique to Brooklyn. Each requires ongoing restoration and the support of all who are concerned for the preservation of both history and architectural and artistic beauty.
The damage and disrepair sustained by our landmark building dates back to 1957 when the church was closed for more than a decade. Since then the parish has managed to address a host of major and minor building concerns. Yet ongoing financial constraints have caused us to defer extensive and costly restoration and repairs to the church exterior and interior, stained windows, and organ. We know that to ensure the safety and accessibility of the building, we must act now.
The Tower and Organ Project: We need your help on a project that will focus first on restoration of the tower and the pipe organ housed inside it. The tower and tower roof are being made a priority as they continue to deteriorate after years of neglect. The stonework and flat roof are in very poor condition. The 1925 organ inside is functioning, but has many original parts that should be replaced.
The acclaimed E.M. Skinner organ, a memorial to the Peabody Family, is an integral part of the church interior, attracting musicians and music lovers from near and far. Its wellbeing is integrally linked to that of the building itself.
If restoration is deferred much longer, the damage to the tower and organ that is sure to occur would be catastrophic for the parish, which entering a period of growth and relies greatly on the use of our magnificent building to host a wide range of church and community programming.
Please help us with your donation today!
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