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    modern
  • a typeface (based on an 18th century design by Gianbattista Bodoni) distinguished by regular shape and hairline serifs and heavy downstrokes

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Paul Robeson Theatre (former St. Casimir Roman Catholic Church)




Paul Robeson Theatre (former St. Casimir Roman Catholic Church)





Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, United States

Summary

The Rundbogenstil building at 40 Greene Avenue, originally named the Church of the Redeemer, was erected c. 1864 for the Fourth Universalist Society possibly to the design of the architect Rembrandt Lockwood. The building remained its home until 1870 when Temple Israel, one of Brooklyn's first Reform congregations purchased the structure and converted it into a synagogue. Having outgrown the building after 20 years, Temple Israel sold it to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn in 1890. The brownstone-fronted building, described in 1870 as being "modest as to size, ornaments and decorations" was enlarged with the addition of an apse and steeple before its dedication as the new home of St. Casimir's Roman Catholic Church, a parish founded in 1875 to tend to the spiritual needs of Brooklyn's Polish population.

St. Casimir's occupied the church on Greene Avenue until 1980 when it was merged with Our Lady of Czestochowa another Polish parish. That year Dr. Josephine English, an African- American physician and community activist purchased the building, converting it into The Paul Robeson Theatre to provide the community with greater access to the arts. This early Brooklyn church building is a significant example of the Rundbogenstil and an important reflection of the borough's rich religious and cultural history.

DESCRIPTION AND ANALYSIS

The Development of Fort Greene

Before Europeans first made contact with Native Americans on what is now called Long Island, large portions of the island, including present-day Brooklyn, were occupied by the Lenape, or Delaware Indians. The Lenape lived in communities of bark- or grass-covered wigwams. In the larger settlements, which were typically located on high ground adjacent to fresh water, they fished, harvested shellfish, and hunted and trapped animals. The main habitation Marechkawick was located around modern-day Fulton Street near Lawrence and Jay Streets. Both Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenue, which pass near the site of St. Casimir's Roman Catholic Church, follow the routes of Native American trails and the area around the church could have been adjacent to or part of a smaller inland campsite, where the Lenape not only hunted and fished but cultivated corn, tobacco, beans, and other crops.

Brooklyn was first settled in the late 1630s and early 1640s by Walloon and Dutch farmers who settled along the shoreline just north of the Fort Greene area. In 1645 the Dutch village of Breuckelen, centered where the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges now stand, was incorporated. The village developed very slowly, reaching a population of only 1,603 residents by 1790 two years after it had been officially incorporated as a town by the State Legislature.

The growth of Brooklyn began in the 19th century as improved transportation across the East River made it possible and convenient for businessmen in Manhattan to live in Brooklyn. By the mid-1830s and 1840s fast, safe, and reliable steamboats traversed the river first opened to steam ferry traffic by Robert Fulton's ship Nassau in 1814.

Extensive residential development of Brooklyn began in the 1830s in the area of Brooklyn Heights, near the ferry slips, and in1834 Brooklyn was officially incorporated as a city. By the mid-19th century much of the area west of Flatbush Avenue (including the modern-day neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, and Boerum Hill) had been substantially built up and residential development was pushing eastward toward Fort Greene.

In the 17th century Fort Greene was the property of Pieter Ceser, also known as Peter Caesar Alberti, reputedly the first resident of Italian descent in Brooklyn. By the 19th century much of the land within Fort Greene had been divided into four farm tracts owned by the Ryerson, Post, Spader, and Jackson families. Martin and Annetje Reyerszen settled in Wallabout in the late 17th century. The family holdings spread south from Wallabout and encompassed most of the modern-day neighborhoods of Clinton Hill and Fort Greene including the site of St. Casimir's. Slavery was common in Brooklyn and at the time of the 1790 census, Jan Ryerson's household included five slaves and ten years later John Ryerson owned six slaves. The widow of Jacob Ryerson began to sell off the family land in the late 1840s.

Before Fort Greene developed as a middle-class residential district, however, it was the site of a notorious shantytown located primarily along Myrtle Avenue. In addition to the shantytown, Fort Greene was the site of a hospital and poor house established in 1824 as well as the Brooklyn Burial Ground. Fort Greene Park, originally opened in the 1840s as Washington Park, provided open space for the working-class population that inhabited the area at the time. The park was redesigned in 1867 by Olmsted and Vaux to meet the needs of the growing middle- class population. Most of the houses erected











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