It might be too late to save the “Green Church,” but preservationists are hoping they can rescue a tiny piece of the emerald-stoned house of worship’s history before the wrecking ball arrives next week — a time capsule.
In 1899, the founders of the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church — then called the New Grace Methodist Episcopal Church — tucked some period relics behind the church’s cornerstone.
“In the little copper box which was placed in the corner stone were a Bible, a hymn book, a book containing the names of the members of the Ladies’ Aid Society, the Epworth League and the Building Committee; a photograph of Simon De Nyne, now deceased, a pioneer Methodist in the Bay Ridge section; a history of the church, a picture of the first church of the Methodist denomination in the vicinity, which was erected on Cowenhoven’s lane in 1830; a picture of the second church, which stood on Stewart avenue, and a photograph of the present church,” the Oct. 22, 1899, edition of the long-defunct Brooklyn Eagle reported.
“There was also a copy of a newspaper, containing the account of the capture of Manila by Dewey, in the box,” the Eagle reported.
Church officials think that the time capsule — and all of the 19th-century heirlooms with it — is still be behind the cornerstone.
“When we do the demolition, we’ll look into it,” said Pastor Robert Emerick, who has succeeded in his quest to tear down the gorgeous, but difficult-to-maintain, structure, sell the church’s land at the corner of Ovington Avenue, relocate the 211 bodies buried on the grounds, and build a smaller, more modern and more manageable house of worship that better fits the tiny congregation.
The demolition is pending Department of Buildings approval, but workers have already removed many of the church’s stained glass windows.
For some of the preservationists who rallied and petitioned to save the historic church, retrieving the time capsule is crucial.
“If the building comes down, the time capsule needs to be taken care of,” said Eric Rouda, a member of the Committee to Save the Green Church. “On top of everything else, I would hate to see that piece of history lost as well.”
But for other activists, the time capsule can’t stand in for the soon-to-be demolished church.
“When you compare the time capsule to the whole experience of what is happening — remains being moved, the church being stripped, and the crosses being taken down — this is so miniscule,” said Victoria Hofmo, who is a member of the committee.
The time capsule isn’t the only part of the church that might be salvaged.
Over the last two weeks, workers from the architectural antique shop “Olde Good Things” have been stripping the church clean.
An employee told The Brooklyn Paper that the company can resell “any architectural details, all the way down to the boards in the wall. It could be stained glass, it could be lighting. It could be the pews. It all depends on the building.”
All of the salvage work going on this week at the church is mere prelude to the demolition of the building itself, which is expected to begin next week. For months, local preservationists have sought a way to save the church from the wrecking ball, but the congregation held firm that demolition was necessary.