85 Calyer Street looks like many other frame houses in Greenpoint, but it was the home of the greatest mechanical genius to ever live in Greenpoint, Thomas Fitch Rowland, and one of the most important short conversations in American history took place in the parlor there. First, though, lets get a little background on the owner of the house, Thomas Fitch Rowland.
Rowland was born in Connecticut in 1831 and became a railroad engineer, quickly becoming one of the leading experts in the design and construction of steam engines. However, he decided to leave railroad engineering, switching to the construction of steam engines for sailing ships and also developing an expertise in metallurgy. He was soon invited to come to Greenpoint to build ships because of his twin areas of expertise. By 1859 he founded his own company, the legendary Continental Iron Works on Quay Street. Two years later, he would help make history when visionary Swedish naval engineer John Ericsson approached him about building a revolutionary ship in Greenpoint, the ironclad Monitor, which would revolutionize warfare making wooden ships obsolete. Continue reading →
One of Greenpoint’s oldest buildings, the Episcopal Church of the Ascension (127 Kent St.), although beautiful, does not feel as if it belongs in Greenpoint. It feels more like a church from North London transported across the Atlantic and placed on Kent Street. It is also not hard to imagine the structure in some quaint English country town.
The British feel to the building is not an accident, as it was designed by Englishman Henry C. Dudley just at the end of the Civil War and dedicated in 1866. Dudley, a major American ecclesiastical architect who built in the English Gothic Revival style, designed a few churches so lovely that they were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Although Dudley built a number of American churches, Ascension is one of only four remaining Dudley churches in New York City and the only one in Brooklyn. Dudley is most famous for his buildings in Nashville, Tennessee, where he and his partner Frank Wills designed the elegant Church of the Holy Trinity, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Continue reading →