Photo of the Week: Spencer Memorial Church

[Spencer Memorial Church], circa 1930, V1973.5.396; Brooklyn photograph and illustration collection, ARC.202; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Spencer Memorial Church], circa 1930, V1973.5.396; Brooklyn photograph and illustration collection, ARC.202; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Happy Pride! New York City is celebrating LGBTQ pride this month with parades, parties, and events throughout the city. This week, we bring you a Photo of the Week focused on a Brooklyn space with a historic connection to the LGBTQ community. Spencer Memorial Church, pictured here around the 1930s, is located at the corner of Clinton and Remsen streets in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Founded in 1838, the church became a welcoming space for members of the gay community under the leadership of William Glenesk who took over pastoral duties in 1955. During his tenure, he included artists and performers in his services and created a hospitable space for the LGBTQ community, hosting discussions and events, as well as providing a meeting space for LGBTQ organizations, such as the Gay Alliance of Brooklyn (GAB). Brooklyn Heights was an artistic neighborhood with a number of well known LGBTQ residents, including Truman Capote, Carson McCullers, Benjamin Britten, and others.

The Gay Alliance of Brooklyn was a civil rights organization, active from 1971-1973 and used Spencer Memorial Church as their meeting space as well as the location for their monthly dances. At its peak, the organization had over 300 members. To learn more about the history of GAB and its relationship with Spencer Memorial Church, check out the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project that highlights historic and cultural sites throughout NYC associated with the LGBTQ community.

The photo of the week comes from the Brooklyn photograph and illustration collection comprised of roughly 7,000 items dating from the early to mid-20th century. Over 30 Brooklyn neighborhoods are documented, as well as photographs of Brooklyn Navy Yard and Brooklyn docks, harbors and ferries. To see more photographs from this collection, check out this gallery.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m.

This post was edited and updated on July 11, 2018. 

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