10. Bushwick was once one of New York City’s largest Italian American neighborhoods

Church of St. Barbara in Bushwick/Ridgewood
Church of Saint Barbara, whose design incorporates the Spanish Colonial Revival style of architecture, uncommon in the northeastern United States.

While Bushwick today is a largely Hispanic community, it was once one of New York City’s largest Italian American neighborhoods. Bushwick’s Italian community was mainly of Sicilian descent, hailing from the provinces of Palermo, Trapani, and Agrigento. One development that resulted from the neighborhood’s expansive Italian American community was the construction of numerous Catholic churches.

Originally the area’s Sicilian community congregated at Our Lady of Pompeii on Siegel Street, but as industry expanded along Flushing Avenue, they moved into Bushwick to support the growing need for factory operators. After, the center of the Sicilian community came to be at St. Joseph Patron of the Universal Church Roman Catholic Parish, which opened in 1923. The church held five annual feasts complete with processions for saints and Our Lady of Trapani. Today, St. Joseph is a vibrant Latino parish run by the Scalabrini Order of priests, an Italian missionary order that caters to migrants. Masses are held in both English and Spanish.

Another prominent Roman Catholic church that formed in Bushwick was St. Barbara’s, a one-story building, cruciform in plan and set on a granite base with two towers and a dome. The church was built from 1907 to 1910, making it one of the earliest churches in the northeastern United States to incorporate the Spanish Colonial Revival style of architecture — uncommon in the region. Designed by Helmle & Huberty, St. Barbara’s structure incorporates elaborate yellow brick and white terra-cotta decorations including an array of pilasters, entablatures, figurative elements, niches, foliation, quoining, and brackets. Red roof tiles, stained glass windows, and a surrounding historic wrought-iron fence and gate complete the church’s look. Originally St. Barbara’s parish was established in 1893 to serve Bushwick’s German Catholic community, before switching to be for the area’s Italian and Hispanic community by the 1950s and 1960s. Its name was derived from the daughter of Leonhard Eppig, a German immigrant who opened one of Bushwick’s many breweries at 22/32 George Street.

Next, check out 18 Must-Visit Spots in Bushwick, Brooklyn: An Untapped Cities Guide!