No. 236 President Street is a curious structure, one of the oddest buildings in Carroll Gardens. It's wholly out of keeping with the brick and brownstone dwellings that surround it.
Sturdy, four-square, ghostly white with a brooding black cornice (which lists its birthday as 1897) and adorned with various classical architectural touches, it looks a little like a giant mausoleum. It's handsome, but also overbearingly gloomy.
For a long time, I assumed it had begun life as some sort of pompous carriage house. Then, last year, I discovered that its grand, four-story, brick neighbor (now an apartment building) has once been the Faculty Home of the Methodist Episcopal Church, owned by the now-gone Simpson Methodist Episcopal Church on the corner of Willoughby and Clermont Avenue. It, too, was erected in 1897, so I thought, perhaps, that the two buildings might be related—even though they look nothing like each other.
Then, recently, I found another piece to the puzzle. Passing by one day as the light was hitting the doorway of 236 just right, I noticed a patch of the wall above the front door wasn't as smooth as it ought to have been. I looked closer. Some carved letters seems to have been scraped away from the edifice. On the left one could make out what used to be the word "Christian." On the right, "Memorial." "Christian Memorial." It had been a religious building.
Checking with DOB, a 1949 Certificate of Occupancy lists the inside as containing a sanctuary, Chancel, Pastor's Room and classrooms.
But it was not a memorial to all Christians, just one specific Christian: Hans S. Christian, a Norwegian immigrant.
According to this helpful site, 236 President Street was the Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarden, built in honor of a successful lime and brick dealer who was born in Norway in 1825 and moved to Brooklyn. His factory was on the Gowanus Canal at Second Street. He died in 1896. He was for many years president of the board of trustees of the First Place M. E. Church. He actually dropped dead after returning from a Wednesday evening prayer meeting, in a snow storm. He lived at 231 President Street.
Amazing what's hiding in plain site if you look hard enough. A shame about those scraped-away letters.