With his big, baritone voice and his infinite knowledge of Brooklyn Heights (he’s lived there 54 years), Greeter Brad Smith took us on a trip that could only be called heavenly. It was an exploration of three churches, all in a designated Historic District. Since Brooklyn is known as a “City of Churches” we knew we were in for a treat.
Our first stop was Grace Church on Hicks Street and Grace Court. It was built in 1847 for $46,737.52! Outside is a charming courtyard that houses a private girls’ school.
The inside is a study in Gothic Revival magnificence, with an alabaster altar, stained glass windows (some designed by Louis C. Tiffany) mosaic tile floors and massive stone columns. Grace Church has an active congregation and unlike many other churches, it’s been solvent through tough economic times.
Our next stop was St. Ann & The Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, built in 1848 and located on Montague Street. We were invited to a concert that was both joyful and wistful, since this was the Farewell Concert of the Director of Music and Organist, Gregory Eaton. After his 21 years and over 600 concerts, the church could no longer afford to employ him.
Mr. Eaton coaxed deep, rich tones from the landmark 1925 E.M. Skinner organ. He played everything from a majestic military March, to a somber Adagio, to a rousing Wall Street Rag by Scot Joplin.
St. Ann’s stained glass windows are widely recognized as artistic treasures. Three are signed by Louis C. Tiffany and one is from Tiffany Studios. The Last Supper window has such vivid detail you can actually see the chicken on the dinner plates.
Then we passed the exterior of the Plymouth Church on Orange Street, built in 1849,
where the great orator, Henry Ward Beecher, was pastor from the 1850s through the 1880s. Beecher had deep philosophical connections to the anti-slavery movement and was a supporter of the Underground Railroad – the secretive network of people who helped slaves escape to the North and Canada.
We ended our day with a walk to the famous Promenade. Its breathtaking views of the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan skyline and the majestic Brooklyn Bridge have made it one of New York City’s most romantic spots – the destination of thousands of first dates and wedding proposals – and the perfect earthly counterpoint to our heavenly journey.