Joseph Lee Sweeney, a retired architect and photographer who chronicled “The Doors of Brooklyn” in an iconic poster, is dead at 76. He passed away on September 22nd after a brief illness, family members said.
As chronicled a decade ago in the Daily News, Sweeney sought to compile imagery of Brooklyn’s exquisite doors to create a rival to the original “Doors of Dublin” poster, which paid tribute to that city’s classic Georgian-style entrances.
“You look at this poster and immediately you know it’s Brooklyn,” he told the Daily News upon his poster’s completion.
To create the poster, Sweeney photographed some 300 doors, scouring the borough by walking through the streets of nearly every neighborhood in Brooklyn.
“I once took a bus getting on and off between Bed-Stuy and Manhattan Beach, but it never felt right,” he said. “I kept thinking I was missing so much. I knew I had to walk to do it right.”
Sweeney eventually narrowed down his vast selection to thirty photographs for the final masterpiece. Once completed, the Brooklyn Tourist Bureau (today the Brooklyn Tourism & Visitor Center) was among some of the locations that proudly displayed and sold the poster.
Born in Manhattan on October 24, 1937, to Joseph and Fanny Sweeney, “Joe” was a member of the 1955 graduating class of Friends Seminary and the first graduate to become Clerk of the School Committee. He received a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Minnesota, taught at Pratt Institute and CUNY, and was a math tutor for several organizations.
A resident of Park Slope, Sweeney also spent time in Hilton Head Island, SC. During his professional career, he was involved in various aspects of the housing industry throughout the U.S., Caribbean, South America, Philippines, and the Middle East. He also volunteered at the Friends Homeless Shelter for 25 years.
He was predeceased by his parents and his sister, Helen Marie Tynan. Surviving to cherish his memory are Dr. Monica Sweeney, his wife of 48 years, his son Marvin, daughters Marilyn B. Sweeney, Simone Mouflih (Zouhair), Monica Musich (Mikel), grandchildren Kieran Sweeney, Sojourner Lee Coles, Leila Mouflih, Mikel and Mya Musich, great niece Monica Brunch, fondly called the “6th grandchild,” two sisters-in-law Hazel Samuels, Jane Moreland, brother-in-law Richard Bagwell, and many nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held on October 24th at Friends Meeting House, 15 Rutherford Place in Manhattan. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that mourners please contribute to Friends Seminary, Friends Homeless Shelter, Institute of Jazz Studies, 185 University Ave., Newark, NJ 07102 or via Caringbridge.org.