Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Former Lincoln Savings Bank, now McDonalds
Address: 2848 Church Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner Nostrand Avenue
Year Built: 1932
Architectural Style: Early Deco, with pared down neo-classical elements
Architect: Unknown, but perhaps Halsey, McCormack & Helmer, it’s very much in their style
The story: The German Savings Bank of Brooklyn was chartered in Brooklyn in 1866. The next year, the Brooklyn Eagle announced that the bank, which was founded by a group of successful German businessmen, and was opening for business soon. Interestingly enough, in their charter documents, which named the principals in the bank’s organization, most of the names were not German. Perhaps they thought they needed Anglo front men… At any rate, they opened their first branch on Montrose Street. By the way, the German Savings Bank was not the same institution as the Germania Savings Bank, which was chartered by an all-German group of investors, but they were both in the same Williamsburg/Bushwick area. Ok, moving forward.
The German Savings Bank of Brooklyn did well, and by the first decades of the 20th century had its headquarters on Broadway, and had a branch up the road, in Williamsburg, on Graham Avenue. The German community, as well as others, made this one of the most successful banks in Brooklyn. But then World War I happened. Suddenly, being German was no longer cool, and in a move to distance themselves from any anti-German frenzy, and to prove they were good and loyal Americans, the bank changed their name to the Lincoln Savings Bank. You can’t get more American than that.
By the time the next crisis, the Great Depression rolled in, they had at least five branches in Brooklyn, in Williamsburg, Bay Ridge, Brighton Beach, Bushwick and Flatbush. This building was the Flatbush Branch. I tried to find old postcards of the branch, and was unsuccessful, but I did find a promotional ashtray on Ebay. The Flatbush branch is in the upper left hand corner, and the bank looks pretty similar to what we have now, except it seems to have lost its cornice. There’s some great early Deco detail framing the windows.
The Lincoln Savings Bank was still quite successful, and in the 1920s, before the Depression, absorbed three other smaller Brooklyn banks, and even through the Depression was doing well enough to be the 7th largest savings bank in the country. Lincoln SB dropped the “of Brooklyn” in 1960, and lasted until it merged with Anchor Bank, in 1994. Anchor merged with Dime, which merged with Washington Mutual, which was taken over by Chase.
The bank building was bought by Freedom National Bank of NY in 1983. When they went under, the building was acquired by a subsidiary of the FDIC, which sold it to McDonalds in 1995. Where suited bank tellers once made change, today’s tellers make fries. I have no problem with it, it’s great adaptive reuse, and a great old building, made of quality building materials is not landfill. I raise my supersized gallon of Diet Coke to them.GMAP
(Photograph: Nicholas Strini for PropertyShark)