Last August, I took time to lament the mystery that is the Luso-American Cultural Center at 619 Henry Street in Carroll Gardens. The former St. Paul's Lutheran Church (circa 1972) is forever silent and shuttered, yet the circular banner forever proclaims it a living mecca for Portuguese-Americans.
Today, for the first time in my 14 years in Carroll Gardens, I saw it open. I was so excited, I broke into a trot and, with little preamble, asked the wiry old man who was standing in the doorway if I could take a look inside. He adopted a mournful expression and shook his grizzled head. He then preceded to apologize. He was a caretaker of sorts, and it was not in his power to permit entry to anyone aside from members.
That's right. It's a membership-only outfit, is the Luso-American Cultural Center. How many members? Not many, said the old man. "The old ones are dying and the young ones don't give a damn," he said. Since I couldn't enter, I peppered him with questions. He told me that the group had owned the building for 65 years, putting them there during World War II times. The center is a remnant of the days when the neighborhood had a sizable Portuguese population. The building is only rarely used, for functions and affairs, and is in a state of disrepair.
I spied in the alcove beyond the door a few pictures on the wall, photographs of past events. Beyond that, nothing. The old man said the man who runs the place lives over on Bond Street and would have been happy to show me the place. But, alas, he wasn't there.
There's still more to learn, but there it is, for what it's worth.