Editor Emeritus - Ed Wilkinson

Brooklyn Cathedral: Some Still Call It Home (with slideshow)

The Cathedral brand still lives in Brooklyn.

Cathedral College, 555 Washington Ave., in the Clinton Hill neighborhood, hasn’t held a class in almost 30 years, but the Flemish style building on the corner of Atlantic Avenue is still known as Cathedral.

Now it’s Cathedral condominiums, home to 54 residences, some duplex, some triplex, with each one having its own unique layout and design.

Where future cardinals, bishops, priests and laymen once played handball and basketball in an inner courtyard, now young families push strollers as they make their way through a garden of shrubs and flowers.

The green spires and flying gargoyles still adorn the red-brick building, but a fourth floor of apartments has been added above where the library was. Outdoor cement walkways have been attached to the second and third floors on the inner courtyard side to permit access to apartments.

The main staircase remains the same, adding an almost eerie, ghostly trip down memory lane. The old entrance on Washington Avenue has been bricked up, and tenants enter through a side door from the old outdoor basketball courts. In the main lobby, a receptionist’s desk sits in front of the alcove where the granite statue of Mary the Immaculate Conception greeted students. An artificial tree sits in its place.

An elevator has taken the place of an old fenced-in staircase. Skylights have been built into the slate roof to give an airy feel to the top floor rooms.

The connection to the former faculty house on St. James Place is part of history. That corner property is part of a whole different real estate deal.

Danny the Superintendent lives on the premises and admits he is a happy man. He asks about whether there ever was a swimming pool in the building as he leads us through a tour of the premises. I tell him how we used to direct freshmen to the pool on the fourth floor, which of course didn’t even exist. I point out the site of the old gym where Jocko Crane used to conduct PT. Danny says it’s the downstairs level for first floor condos. Now he better understands the layout of that part of the house.

In two years, the Cathedral building will be 100 years old. Scenes of the construction can be seen in old photos on the wall that used to be the entrance to the lunch room.

Cathedral was the brainchild of Bishop Charles McDonnell, the second Bishop of Brooklyn. Auxiliary Bishop George Mundelein, the future Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago, was its first rector. Two big names in diocesan history that most people in Brooklyn wouldn’t even recognize today. But their work at Cathedral lives on in the living stones of Cathedral Condominiums, which some lucky people now call home.

If you want to live at Cathedral Condominiums, you can expect to pay between $350,000 and $500,000 for an apartment. On top of that, there is a $400-$500 maintenance fee and a few hundred in monthly taxes. Compared to $150 a year tuition of the early 1960s, it seems extravagant, but in today’s Central Brooklyn that continues to undergo gentrification, it could pass for a bargain.

The work of Cathedral Prep has shifted to Elmhurst, where a branch of the prep seminary opened in 1963. It still provides a quality education and a pathway to the priesthood.

But for those of us who once walked the hallowed halls of Washington Avenue, the Brooklyn building will always have a dear place in our hearts.

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One thought on “Brooklyn Cathedral: Some Still Call It Home (with slideshow)

  1. I’ve lived at The Cathedral since the early 1990s and absolutely love it here. The building is very beautiful and many of the bedrooms face the interior courtyard so it’s quite peaceful. Years ago, a priest who was a former teacher at Cathedral Prep in the 1950s came by when things were still partly under construction and I gave him a tour. He told me there is an identical building in another state (the builders used the same floor plan – wish I could remember where it is) and there was a secret tunnel in the basement that led to the little park across the street on Underhill (it has been bricked up for quite some time). I believe it’s important to keep structures like this from being torn down, as the history of the school and our city needs them as a reminder of things past. Thank you for this nice slideshow. How about a new one with some old photos for those of us who only remember The Cathedral as it is now?