Schoolhouse a lock! Joan Baez, locals triumphant in effort to landmark Carroll Gardens buildings • Brooklyn Paper

Schoolhouse a lock! Joan Baez, locals triumphant in effort to landmark Carroll Gardens buildings

Save it, don’t raze it: Local leaders and residents are calling on the city to landmark this historic President Street building before it gets demolished and replaced with apartments.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

Cue the victory music!

Preservationists including legendary folk singer Joan Baez succeeded in saving a pair of Carroll Gardens buildings the musician’s family once lived and worked in when officials named the properties as city landmarks on Tuesday.

Advocates cheered the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s decision to preserve the 19th-century properties at 236 and 238 President St., citing their interconnected past as integral to the neighborhood’s identity.

“These two structures provide a unique and highly sought after sense of place, and I am thrilled that they have now been formally designated as individual landmarks,” said Carroll Gardens Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon.

The two-story building at 236 President St. opened in 1897 as the Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten, the borough’s first freestanding facility of its kind, whose faculty moved into its neighboring residential complex completed in 1853 shortly thereafter.

Decades later, leaders of the First Methodist Episcopal congregation transformed the classrooms into the borough’s first Spanish-speaking church, where clergy including Baez’s Mexican-born grandfather preached, leading family of the Staten Island–born songwriter to move into an apartment next door.

Baez and locals including many present-day occupants of 238 President St. in March began their push to landmark the old kindergarten and its neighbora campaign that inspired this newspaper’s former editor to pen his own folk song about the effort — after news spread that a developer sought to buy and demolish the former school to erect a seven-story residential building in its place.

But that deal allegedly collapsed after city preservationists kicked off the landmarking process for the two buildings weeks later, when the owner of 236 President St. put the property back on the marketwhere it still sits unsold with a $4,950,000 price tag.

And following the landmarks commission’s ruling, the agency’s approval is now required for most renovations to the ancient structures.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
She overcame!: Joan Baez, who with locals pushed officials to landmark the buildings where her family lived, and her grandfather preached.
Associated Press / I. Lopez

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