Ridgeites looking to landmark Saint John’s Episcopal Church have looked no further than the World Wide Web to get the word out, starting with an online petition through change.org kick-started by the Bay Ridge Historical Society.
“The church is an architectural, historical, cultural, and religious landmark in its own right,” wrote the Bay Ridge Historical Society in the introduction to its online plea that has garnered over 120 signatures. “We urge the Landmarks Preservation Commission to recognize the significance of this incredibly beautiful institution and offer full landmark status to this building.”
The local parish at 9818 Fort Hamilton Parkway ended its active public ministry on Sunday, September 8 in preparation for a new partnership with Christ Church of Bay Ridge, 7301 Ridge Boulevard, so that both congregations could continue to thrive, said former Saint John’s Priest-in-Charge David Sibley.
But, with180 years in Bay Ridge and Fort Hamilton under its belt, parishioners past and present are looking to keep the “Church of the Generals” untouched despite the merger.
“I do not want them to tear down Saint John’s,” said Ronelda Roberts, a lifelong Ridgeite living at 93rdStreet and Ridge Boulevard who was active in the parish in the past. Roberts, a former employee for the Parks Department, told this paper that she was in office when Saint John’s was declared a historical site.
“I just don’t get how they can knock it down,” she said. “This was a landmark and this is very, very hard for me. I’m so upset that this is happening.”
“Both the Church building [itself] and the land it sits on is steeped in American history for the number of famous military leaders that worshiped at what has become a famous historic site,” wrote signee and Vice President of the Society of Old Brooklynites Ted General as his “Reasons for signing” – a section of the change.org site that grants petitioners a voice.
Famous military leaders who have worshipped at Saint John’s during their time stationed at the nearby Fort Hamilton Army Base include Robert E. Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Matthew Ridgway, who commanded US troops in the Korean War, and Hubert Harmon, the first superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy.
“It is important to our community and city historically, culturally and architecturally,” wrote local preservationist Victoria Hofmo.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission is currently evaluating Saint John’s for landmark status after a request made by local Councilmember Vincent Gentile in July.