Places that Matter

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church

Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper
Church notable for its efforts in the anti-slavery movement, supporting women in the ministry, and on behalf of working people and immigrants
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Place Matters Profile

Founded in 1857, the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church has a long tradition of social activism and community service. Still housed in its original 1861-62 Romanesque Revival building, the church offers space to a myriad of local organizations and plays a leadership role in many important local and national social justice issues.

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church was originally called the Park Presbyterian Church and was located in a building at De Kalb and Carlton Avenues. Just three years after the church's founding, the well-known abolitionist Theodore L. Cuyler became its pastor and the church began a long period of growth and expansion. During Cuyler's 30-year tenure the congregation grew to over 2000 and the church became known for its leadership in the temperance and abolition movements.

Early during Reverend Cuyler's ministry the church built its current home--a distinctive Romanesque Revival structure with an austere rectilinear profile. Faced in stone, rather than the more typical brick, the church has two square towers, the taller of which was originally topped by a distinctive 150-foot spire that was removed in 1932. Inside, the church has a simple oval design with few visual obstructions. The original windows were simple colored glass, but in later years nine windows by Tiffany Studios were added including one that uses Rev. Cuyler as the model for St. Paul. Other notable interior features include a 1920s pastoral scene reflecting the church's liberal stance on evolution, and a series of 1970s murals in the church auditorium that show people from the community engaged in everyday activities. The building also includes a lecture room, a library, and a large Sunday school wing that is often used for community gatherings. The church is a contributor to the Fort Greene Historic District.