11. There used to be a Church of the Holy Turtle and many convents

Cobble Hill Park
Cobble Hill Park, near where the church was located.

Today, Cobble Hill is home to a handful of churches, including one of the oldest Roman Catholic Churches in New York State, Saint Paul’s Church. However, one of the most well-known in the neighborhood was the Second Unitarian Church, built in 1857 and destroyed in 1962. The church was located on Clinton Street, often nicknamed the “highway of churches” due to the high prevalence of different denominations of churches. One of its parishioners, Mary White Ovington, co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the church was also a major abolitionist center in Brooklyn.

The church, though, had the rather strange nickname “Church of the Holy Turtle.” This was because the building was shaped like a cruciform, with a low-pitched roof of green and purple octagonal slates resembling a tortoise. This was not the church’s official name, but the church’s quirky architecture made it a neighborhood staple. The church was active during the time when Cobble Hill also had many convents, many on Clinton Street as well as Baltic Street. Nuns from across the country and Europe came to Cobble Hill and lived among the neighborhood’s workingmen and elite.