Early Purpose-Built Kindergarten and Associated Deaconess Home Enter Designation Process

Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten. Image credit: LPC.

Two adjoining buildings from different eras with shared history to be considered together as an individual City landmark. Landmarks voted to add two buildings to its calendar for consideration as individual landmarks at the Commission’s April 10, 2018, meeting. The buildings are the 238 President Street House and the adjoining Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten at 236 President Street. The structures stand in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Landmarks’ Research Department stated that the buildings are “architecturally and culturally significant representations of social improvements in education and immigrant welfare… and the development of Carroll Gardens.”

The Kindergarten dates to 1897 and was designed by the firm of Hough & Deuell in French Renaissance Revival style. The Kindergarten was commissioned by Elmira S. Christian to memorialize her husband Hans after his sudden death in 1894. Norwegian immigrant Hans Christian had been the Sunday school superintendent for the First Place Methodist Episcopal Church where he and Elmira were long-time members. The building was built to Christian’s specification, and donated to the Methodist Episcopal Church Society to serve the area’s immigrant population, and ensure their children learned basic skills, instruction in English, and instilled in them the values of citizenship.

The kindergarten was still a novel concept in the United States in the late 19th century, and the building was likely Brooklyn’s first purpose-built kindergarten

238 President Street House. Image credit: LPC.

The Italianate-style 238 President Street House was built in 1853 by an unknown architect. Originally a one-family private residence, Elmira Christian purchased the property in 1897, and converted it into a training center and a residence for Methodist deaconesses. It was Brooklyn’s first permanent such institution. The conversion entailed renovation and enlargement of the buildings from three to four stories. The building displays a four-bay red-brick facade with arched openings and detailed cast-iron trim. The Research Department called the house a significant example of the City’s pre-Civil War architecture.

Both buildings are now occupied by private apartments.

In addition to their architectural merit, The Research Department stated that the designations of the buildings would memorialize Elmira Christian’s commitments to education reform and immigrant welfare.

Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said that while, both buildings have undergone alterations, they had “an incredible story to tell,” and the alterations did not detract from their presence on the street. Srinivasan added that, together, the buildings constituted a charming “odd couple” beloved in their neighborhood.

Commissioners voted unanimously to add the buildings to Landmarks calendar. No date was established for a public hearing.


LPC: Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten, 236 President Street, Brooklyn (LP-2611); 238 President Street House, 238 President Street, Brooklyn (LP-2612) (April 10, 2017).

By: Jesse Denno (Jesse is a full-time staff writer at the Center for NYC Law.)

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