Building of the Day: 172 Cadman Plaza East

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Comfort Station
Address: 172 Cadman Plaza East
Cross Streets: Cadman Plaza West and Cadman Plaza East
Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
Year Built: Around 1950
Architectural Style: Brutalist
Architect: Unknown, perhaps Eggers & Higgins, but probably Parks Department staff
Landmarked: No

The story: This tiny comfort station has a Brutalist charm; it’s a concrete bunker, a utilitarian building sitting all by itself in the vast expanse of this part of Cadman Plaza. It’s a very 1950s kind of building, which takes quite seriously the necessary functions, albeit with a Cold War kind of gravitas. It peeks out from amidst the trees, with its iron parts now rusting, and if photographed in the right way, could look like an abandoned military building in the Soviet Union. How amazing, here behind the stalwart gaze of Henry Ward Beecher.

Cadman Plaza was the largest post-World War II civic urban renewal project in the country. It began, unofficially, with widening the entrances to the Brooklyn Bridge; in 1936, continued with the removal of the elevated trains in the 1940s; and blew up in full splendor under Robert Moses in the early 1950s. The entire project, with the courthouse, housing, parkland and memorials, would not be finished until 1960.

This comfort station seems to complement the War Memorial, and may have been built around the same time. The nearby large slab with its full-sized classical figures, commemorating Brooklyn’s World War II dead, was designed by the firm of Eggers & Higgins. They were also responsible for the Vanderbilt Law School building at NYU, built at the same time. PropertyShark gives the station the above address, but it really doesn’t have one.

More than likely, some journeyman on Moses’ Parks Department architectural staff designed this and its twin on the other side of the Plaza. In any case, it’s extremely suited to the location, and although spare, has its own charm. Hey, it’s a bathroom! People need bathrooms in public spaces, it makes sense. No one notices bathrooms, unless they need one, so it’s serving its purpose, another part of the vastness that is Cadman Plaza. GMAP

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