College Point historical site gets renovation funds, hopes for revival


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com |

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz
THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

The Poppenhausen Institute, College Point's cultural center, will be renovated in 2015. A new elevator will also be installed.

The historic Poppenhusen Institute‘s foundation sits on sand and its façade deteriorates with age. After 30 years of weathering wind from the bay, the College Point cultural center is going to be restored.

The city granted funds to the historical landmark building in order to complete overdue repairs to its exterior and to also build an elevator for the three upper floors, according to city documents. The last time the building’s exterior was working was in 1980s.

Executive Director Susan Brustmann believes the repairs and construction will cost $10 million but the city has only approved $5 million. The two major jobs will begin in early 2015 and will last for at least a year, according to Brustmann.

At a time when the nineteenth century building is in danger of closing down, the city grant is a welcome relief, according to Brustmann.

“We’re facing the most challenging time in our history,” she said. “So we’re very grateful that the city has given us money. The construction will be a great thing once it’s done.”

When the repairs are completed, Brustmann hopes to attract new revenue sources like getting the HBO show “Boardwalk Empire” to come back and film another scene in the building’s party hall.

Poppenhusen was built in 1868 with funds from Conrad Poppenhusen, a German immigrant. Since opening, the building has taken on various roles, from holding the first kindergarten class in America to housing German Singing Societies to being a court room and a sheriff’s office with two jail cells that still stand today.

Brustmann hopes to bring some of that diversity back by not only offering its historic rooms to film crews  but by also hosting a coffee shop on the third floor, overlooking the water.

In 2008 the Institute lost its state funding and now relies on city grants and donations. For now, its plan is to hold on until the construction is finished.

“College Point is off the beaten path but we’re fighting to get people in here and stay relevant,” Brustmann said. “We’re not giving up.”

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