Building of the Day: 495 Flatbush Avenue

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The BOTD is a no-frills look at interesting structures of all types and from all neighborhoods. There will be old, new, important, forgotten, public, private, good and bad. Whatever strikes our fancy. We hope you enjoy.

Address: 495 Flatbush Avenue, between Empire Blvd and Lefferts Avenue
Name: Bond Bakery, now Phat Albert Warehouse
Neighborhood: Prospect Lefferts Gardens
Year Built: 1925
Architectural Style: Industrial with Classic details
Architects: Unknown
Landmarked: No

Why chosen:
For those growing up in Flatbush, and in the shadow of Ebbett’s Field, this was always the Bond Bakery building. In researching this iconic piece of Brooklyn history, I’ve found that everyone who grew up here from before World War II to at least the Viet Nam era, remembers the tantalizing smell of baking bread emanating from the bakery. They also remember the clock tower keeping time for the neighborhood. The Bond Bakery supplied bread to the New York area, and was known for its special rye bread, sold under the Grossinger’s name, which it leased from that famed Catskill’s resort. I wasn’t able to find out when they stopped baking here, but in 1997, the building was sold by the Denk Baking Corporation to the owners of Phat Albert’s. It really is a fine building, especially the tower, and serves as the entryway to PLG, and to greater Flatbush. It would be great if the clocks could be restored, and all of the boarded up windows re-glassed. The tower would make a great community space/museum/gallery. There is now a day care center and school on the second floor. There have long been cries to landmark this building, for its architectural merit, place in the streetscape of Flatbush, and its history. I hope that happens, it’s certainly worthy.

0 Comment

  • “The tower would make a great community space/museum/gallery”

    From your mouth to god’s ear MM; this is something we’ve discussed more than once at PLG Arts board meetings. Even with Phat Albert’s retail and warehouse operations in there I suspect there’s plenty of room that could be rented (if funding were available and the owner was willing) and, if we could BUY the building (subject to the same caveats) that would be wonderful. We have our work cut out for us, but PLG Arts is only five years old and we manage to do a lot already:

    http://www.plgarts.org/home.htm

  • great choice MM. love that…. same guy owns 81 Willoughby and the bank near Woodhull

  • I don’t recall when they stopped baking, but it was quite a few years after I moved to PLG (in ’74). I miss the aroma!

  • I remember the smell of the Pechters Bakery when I lived in Prospect Heights in the mid-1980s – delicious!

    I also like the Ebingers Bakery building on Albermarle and Bedford, which is now a mini-storage.

  • in Grossinger’s Rye still made?

  • babs

    Pechter’s Bread Factory, BTW, was in the now-destroyed Ward’s Bakery building – and I loved it too when I lived in Fort Greene. Let’s hope this building gets spared the fate of Ward’s – you know developers covet this site! I’m told the owner doesn’t want to sell right now, but if he ever does put it on the market, watch out!

  • babs

    And Phat Albert’s is apparently very successful – although in order to shop there you need to be able to wait in line for at least 40 minutes, as there’s always only one cashier and every transaction appears to be complicated in some way. Both times I’ve tried to buy something there I had to leave before getting to the head of the line – it’s the old time/money tradeoff – if you’ve got one you don’t usually have much of the other.

  • In the 50s, the smell of this bakery also mixed with the sounds and smells of a Beer Garden on the corner of Flatbush and Empire Blvd. (torn down and replaced by a Wetson’s, then a McDonalds, then a ???, now a Wendy’s. There was a hot dog stand at one corner of the beer garden, which faced out toward the street. As child gardeners at the BBG, we’d come straight from the fields with freshly dug vegetables and trade them for hot dogs (the owner was much wiser than we ;-)

  • What I would give to see that building purchased by a new owner, landmarked and restored! Wouldn’t be enough for me to buy it, of course. But, oh do I cherish the thought! Phat Albert’s is a destination retail spot for many in PLG but I can’t stand the place myself. The management is rude and disrespectful to the surrounding community; the workers’ attitudes are not much better. C’mon PLG Arts– if you start a serious campaign to take back Bond’s I bet you will get some real support for that campaign right back!

  • It would make a kick ass Trader Joes/Farmers Market or community center. No Disrespect to the Car Wash, Phat Albert but I can’t wait to see the back of them. I would keep the beer wholesalers of course – for “historical integrity.”

  • Phat Albert’s makes huge amounts of money, but it’s a discount store with a different demographic than brownstoner.com.

    As to landmarking, this building is an example of landmarking going too far. People have memories of the bakery there, but that doesnt make protecting the building in perpetuity. It’s a building with nice windows and a clock. They baked bread there; it’s not historic.

  • Brenda from Flatbush

    This building–a warmly remembered landmark now given over to crap retail, a car wash and booze warehouse, its iconic clockface pitifully ruined–stands as a pathetic “gateway” from Brownstone Brooklyn to Flatbush and beyond. To me, it says, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” You would never guess, as you cruise from Grand Army Plaza and then the Prospect Park/BBG “greenbelt”, that its environs held the beauties of PLG tucked out of sight behind the shabby face of Flatbush Avenue. The building is more than an eyesore; it seems to demarcate a sudden passage from Brooklyn revived to Brooklyn still adrift in decay, which is now a false impression, to boot. That the owner would allow it to fester so, bespeaks a real contempt for the surrounding community. Opposite it on Flatbush Ave., the creative and beautiful subway entrance with its Zoo theme, and even the gorgeous murals on the construction fences, testify to the area’s vitality. It’s a lovely notion, yet I don’t necessarily advocate a blue-sky plan to make it an artsy center to gladden the hearts of gentrifiers (and undoubtedly “split” the community into a tedious smackdown of Phatware lovers versus yoga practitioners). Years ago, it simply served a solid purpose while being maintained with dignity and public spirit (i.e. a handy and handsome clock). I have a great idea that would provide jobs and provide a universally desired commodity. How about turning it into a BREAD BAKERY?

  • Brenda i think you summed up what I’ve seen since moving to Brooklyn.The constant struggle between old Brooklyn and new Brooklyn.Such a pity!

    Older timers of 20 and 30 years tell me it was a rough place back then and the changes they see now are a good thing.So why the animosity between the hoods?

  • Phat Albert’s is an eyesore but poor people have to buy their stuff somewhere. All the young hipster renter kids in the hood I know totally love the place.

    If anyone knows anything about the dire situation for arts nonprofits the last kind of capital campaign the community should want to undertake is for a culture center. I really want to see the Loews Kings theater on Flatbush come to fruition so I would oppose competing for the same arts dollars the Loews Kings will be going after.

    What the neighborhood really needs is a community center to serve all kinds of interests and needs. PLG should convince the YMCA to open a branch in this building. That would be brilliant.

  • I agree that a community center would be brilliant. However, I doubt that convincing the YMCA to open a new branch anywhere these days is any more realistic than hoping for PLG Arts to take up a capital campaign to buy this building.

    I think the original point of the thread was to point out this building as a fine old structure that has some history and some nice architectural detail and that it would be great for someone to restore it and put the structure to wider use. At least that was my point in posting. It certainly was not to suggest that PLG Arts and other gentrifiers should mobilize to deprive the poor people of PLG of a decent place to shop. (Which, notwithstanding the opinions of hipster renter kids and all, I still don’t think Phat Albert’s is all that.)

  • Any new institution focused on health and fitness in urban areas is way more successful at raising funds right now than arts and culture places. With foundations, donors and the city. And the White House.

  • A few points:

    § FWIW the car wash and “booze” warehouse are in adjacent,but separate buildings.

    § Rental space on an upper floor (IF it’s available and we could raise the $$) could probably accommodate a performance/gallery space without interfering with Phat Albert (where, I confess, I sometimes shop).

    § In any case, a permanent home for PLG Arts is a long-term goal, not something likely in the very short term.

  • I agree about loews kings.it should be saved.

    if you want to do something good with phat alberts, convince a fairway or trader joes or equivalent to open. Better yet, open a food coop. It would do well, and it would serve the different communities.

    PS phat albert could easily find space locally on empire between flatbush and bedford.

  • The building would make an amazing Brooklyn Dodgers museum with recreated grandstands, exhibits on what the Dodgers meant to Brooklynites of all stripes, the Jackie Robinson story, the L.A. betrayal etc. It would provide a reason for tour buses to stop instead of simply circling around when they get to PLG as they currently do, and the Cyclones could sell tickets to visitors and run a shuttle to games.

  • @FlatbushMan23: Now that’s a good idea! Both a fitting gateway and something that would appeal to more than a handful of people.

  • From Sept. 1986 – April 1990 I worked for the accounting firm that audited the financial statements for Denk Baking. It was always great to visit because we’d leave with loaves of Grossingers rye, pumpernickel, etc. The controller used to show us around the factory & take hot loaves out of the oven for us to snack on while doing our work!

    My dad grew up nearby and remembers it as the Bond Bakery.

    When we used to go there for the audits, we were told that some of the night security people believed they saw the ghost of Horst Denk walking around. At that time, the building had an indoor parking deck; as 1990 approached, however, we were told not to park on it as it might be unstable.

    As for Grossinger’s Rye, the last I saw it in the store (several years ago) the label said it was baked in Maryland.