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MAY 6, 2016

Jehovah’s Witnesses Sell Their Longest-Held Property in Historic Brooklyn Heights

NEW YORK—On Tuesday, April 26, 2016, Jehovah’s Witnesses closed on the sale of 124 Columbia Heights in Brooklyn, New York. The over 152,000-square-foot (14,121 sq m) residential property, with its iconic watchtower atop the roof, is situated at the north entrance of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. The property was listed in December 2015, and after a competitive bidding process, a first-time buyer for one of the Witnesses’ properties was selected.

122-124 Columbia Heights before the Witnesses’ renovation.

The original four-story brownstone at 124 Columbia Heights was the home of Henry Ward Beecher, the renowned abolitionist and pastor of Plymouth Church, from 1856 to 1881. The New York Times reported on the property’s historical significance, stating that “it was in this house that President Lincoln is said to have visited Mr. Beecher shortly before the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.” In May 1909, the Witnesses purchased the brownstone and subsequently obtained several adjoining properties to create the ten-story building that spans an entire city block today.

A spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses, Richard Devine, comments: “We consider 124 Columbia Heights to be one of our organization’s legacy buildings. As far back as 1909, it has primarily served as living quarters for our world headquarters staff. From 1929 to 1957, with the exception of four years, 124 Columbia Heights also housed our former radio station, WBBR, which aired Bible lectures and related broadcasts.”

Studio for the Witnesses’ radio station, WBBR, at 124 Columbia Heights in the 1950s.

Although the Witnesses have been a part of the Brooklyn Heights community for over 100 years, the original headquarters of their legal entity Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society was established in the 1880s in Allegheny (now part of Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania. David A. Semonian, a spokesman at the Witnesses’ world headquarters, notes: “The move in 1909 to a port city like Brooklyn was crucial at that time for the expansion and acceleration of our global Bible education work.”

The sale of 124 Columbia Heights marks the latest step in the Witnesses’ relocation of their headquarters offices to their nearly 50-acre complex soon to be completed in Warwick, New York. Mr. Semonian adds: “The move to our new custom-built facility upstate is exactly what we need now. Brooklyn was our home for more than a century, and Warwick will be our home for a new era in our history.”

Media Contact:

David A. Semonian, Office of Public Information, tel. +1 718 560 5000