Sections

Nun left! Now neighbors want to save convent building

The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like The Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

A quest by Clinton Hill preservationists to save a historic convent building has become even more urgent now that the last remaining nuns are moving out and the religious complex may be put up for sale.

With the 146-year-old Sisters of Mercy compound on Willoughby Avenue getting mothballed in the coming weeks, the Society for Clinton Hill wants the city to declare it a landmark so that the convent cannot be knocked down.

“We’ve been worried about that property for a long time because of the decline in the number of nuns,” said Sharon Barnes, a member of the civic group, which requested landmark status for the cloister, along with four other unprotected neighborhood beauties, in 2007.

The neighborhood group is still awaiting a decision from the often-tardy Landmarks Preservation Commission.

“Clinton Hill is known for its churches,” Barnes said. “We’ve seen so many luxury condos go up, so we’d like to preserve this.”

The uncertainty hanging over the convent sparked an online petition drive to hasten a ruling from the city. The letter affirms that the nunnery is worth safeguarding as “an important example of an intact 19th-century religious complex,” and because the convent “was designed by Brooklyn resident Patrick C. Keely, the most important Catholic-church architect in America in the mid-19th century.”

A spokeswoman for the Landmarks Preservation Commission said her office is studying an expansion of the existing Clinton Hill Historic District of brownstones, carriage houses, churches and the famed Clinton Avenue mansions, which would bring the convent into the protected zone.

Until December, there were 29 sisters living in the walled property, between Classon Avenue and Taaffe Place. That number is down to 13, and they are expected to be resettled by the end of January, according to a spokeswoman for the religious order.

Besides the motherhouse, there is also a chapel and a building erected on the premises in 1883 as a girls’ orphanage. Though physically impressive, the buildings are damaged and would cost $20 million to repair — a sum the order cannot afford.

For now, the convent is not changing hands.

“The future is yet to be determined,” said Debbie DellaPorta, a spokeswoman for the Sisters of Mercy.

Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like The Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Reader Feedback

FrankC from bay ridge says:
An ex-church isn't a "church," unless your sole interest is scenery.
Clinton Hill might "be known for its churches" ... but - unless this place is bought and used by a church - it won't be a church anymore.
Jan. 18, 2009, 6:42 am
M.P. Murray from western new york says:
Brooklyn Paper Editor:
Sirs:
It is a sad commentary as I report to you the total neglect of the children who grew up with me in this Convent. I lived there for many years in the '30's, and '40's. There was absolutely no Love at all. The children were just pawns. The children were never called by name. The children were illiterate because of the lack of knowledge of the world. They were eventually sent out in the world with no skills at all. The children were deprived of warm clothing, and basic health needs. Our uniforms were worn and soiled from year to year without change,
This fortress was only for the Nuns, not for the care of the innocent children placed in their care.
There Garden was for them. We children looked over at the Garden, but never invited to even realize an aroma or to know the difference of the beauty of each flower.
I am very very sad at this time of my life because of my memories that should have been a loving caring "home but it was no place of kindness or caring.
Christmas time, gifts were giving, and then taken away. Never a recognition of birthdays or other holidays, I have so many stories, and I could go on, and on. It is all too sad.
I educated myself when I was out of this building, for that is all it was.
I married, and raised six wonderful boys. I raised them with love, and they all became successful, only through the Love of God who guided me in His Wisdom. I became a teacher of Ham Radio with the local school system, and did it all on my own.
If for only one reason, this property in Brooklyn is not, in my opinion, pleasing to God.
It may seem like a burden to the Nuns, as they were removed, but think of the burden on the innocent children who endured so much hardship, and no love or education.
I have so much more to say, and planning to write a book, to bring out the hidden happenings which happened so long ago
I live, not too far from Niagara Falls, NY.
Thank you for listening.
Sincerely.
Mrs. M. P, Murray
May 30, 2009, 5:22 am
james Lookretis from 285 st johns place says:
I was a child that attended St teresa's Grammar school. The only refuges I had was the cloister on taffe Place,,,the dear nuns always greeted me in God's Love and Peace at my 6.7.8.9.10. years of childhood. I would escape to the brooklyn Library m thru f till 5 pm then go home to fury. By the Grace of God I was taught by Xaviar Brothers,St Joseph nuns and Franciscans at Bishop Ford. The world hasa deteriorated where abortion is birth control ...amoral behavior the norm and good samatianism is nearly dead.PRAY WORK AND GIVE ,,,God and our fellow man desperately need HOPE!
Nov. 26, 2012, 1:42 am

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BrooklynPaper.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.