Boasting ethnically diverse restaurants, stunning architecture and renowned institutions, Fort Greene is a thriving urban cultural hub that’s trendy, yet simultaneously community-oriented. With a history dating back to the Revolutionary War, it’s no surprise that the neighborhood is distinguished by architectural and historical artifacts such as the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument in Fort Greene Park, formerly the site of an actual fort. Yet, amidst this, you’ll also find quaint, tree-lined streets and beautifully preserved brownstones from the mid-19th century.
It is all these elements combined that help to make Fort Greene the brilliantly vibrant and charming neighborhood that it is today. With so much to see and do, we’ve rounded up a list of places, focusing on the hidden, the historical and the truly unique. Here are 17 must-visit places to check out in Fort Greene:
Brooklyn Masonic Temple
Fort Greene is home to several architectural masterpieces, the most famous among these being the Brooklyn Masonic Temple. Built in 1909, this Masonic granite temple is regarded as one of the most beautiful structures in the United States and features an impressive brick, marble and terra cotta exterior. According to The New York Times, the original intent of this structure was to be a meeting place for the Masons of Brooklyn (hence the name). In 1977, it was then sold to a “clandestine” Mason group. This group couldn’t afford the daunting cost of upkeep, so they rented out the space on a regular basis. The building now serves as a concert venue, “Masonic Boom,” and is part of the Fort Greene Historic District, which includes the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and Fort Greene Park (more on the park’s history to come). Right next to it is another architectural masterpiece, the Queen of All Saints Church, built in the gothic revival style from 1910 to 1913. Address: 317 Clermont Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11205
Long Island University (LIU) Basketball Court
You might be surprised walking into the Long Island University’s Brooklyn’s Athletic Center. It isn’t your normal gym: the ornate ceiling — one of the most beautiful you’ll ever see in New York — hints back to the building’s past as the historic Paramount theater.
The theater opened in 1928 and played host to some notable characters, such as American jazz singer, Ella Fitzgerald, composer, Duke Ellington, and singer, Frank Sinatra. It quickly became a live jazz hub and was the first theatre designed for movies with sound (or talking pictures). Sadly, the theater shuttered in 1962, following a period of financial instability after the Depression. Before too long, however, LIU stepped in and turned the site into a basketball court and a common area for campus activities. While the exterior and much of the interior are vastly different from the original Paramount Theater, two things remain: the gym’s gorgeous ceiling and one very special instrument: a behemoth organ installed by Wurlitzer in 1928.
It’s one of the last Wurlitzer organs in New York City today, and was meant for silent films: an operator would sit down and watch the movie while reacting to the onscreen moments live. The ever watchful organist was always on the scene and ready, whether he or she was providing mood music for the screening, playing a musical interlude or adding sound effects to corresponding moments of the film. Read more about it here. Address: 161 Ashland Place, Brooklyn NY 11201