Building of the Day: 645 Grand Avenue

645 Grand Avenue, SSpellen 5

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Flashback Friday! Please enjoy another look at a past BOTD, updated with new information.

Name: Former 80th Precinct, now NYPD Administrative Facility
Address: 645 Grand Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner Washington Avenue and Park Place
Neighborhood: Crown Heights North
Year Built: 1890s
Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival
Architect: George Ingram
Other Buildings by Architect: 88th Precinct, Clinton Hill; 18th Precinct, Sunset Park; 19th Precinct, Williamsburg; 17th Precinct, East New York, among others
Landmarked: No, but should be

The story: Back in the old days, many of our police precincts, like the armories built around the same time, looked like medieval fortresses guarding the town from invaders, a deliberate use of architecture to evoke a psychological response. The architect of this station was George Ingram, who also designed many other precinct buildings for the city of Brooklyn. This precinct house was one of six he designed for Brooklyn’s growing police force. It was originally the 20th precinct, but after the consolidation of Brooklyn, became the 80th.

The 80th, or the “8-Oh” was in use for about 80 years. In 1951, returning World War II veteran Benjamin Ward became the first black police officer assigned to the 80th Precinct. It was not a pleasant experience for him, as he was not welcomed by his fellow officers, or the community. For the first three years of his stint there, he was never assigned a locker, and had to dress at home, and ride to and from work in uniform on the subway. He persevered, however, rose through the ranks, and became the first African-American police commissioner of New York City in 1984, under Ed Koch.

By that time, massive budget cuts had caused the shrinking of the police force and its resources at a time when the city needed them the most. In the mid 1970s, the 80th Precinct was abolished and their territory taken over by the 77th, way in eastern Crown Heights. Today, the building is now a NYPD administrative facility of some kind. Local scuttlebutt is that there is a Special Victims Unit here, and maybe a Narcotics Unit. Some also say the Cold Case Squad operates out of here. There is no signage visible, although I can certainly understand why there wouldn’t be.

The building is quite impressive still, with terra-cotta trim, and a beautiful wrought iron clock face on the Park Place side. There is also a stable attached to the back on the same side. The ivy growing up the side softens this fortress, and reminds us that function does not have to dictate an absence of aesthetic beauty. The architects of most of the new precinct buildings in this city seem to have forgotten this.

The architect of this project, George Ingram, was the Assistant Engineer for the Brooklyn Department of City Works for many years. He left in 1899, and landed this plum commission to design six police precinct buildings for the City of Brooklyn. The city needed larger precincts in its growing neighborhoods, and it also needed more modern facilities that were commensurate with Brooklyn’s status as one of the nation’s premiere cities. Ingram gave them both, designing a series of buildings that look like medieval castles but were, for their day, well equipped state of the art police facilities. This is not the best known of Ingram’s police stations, but it shares many of his signature design elements, most noticeably the corner tower. GMAP

(Photo: S.Spellen)

Photo: S.Spellen

Photo: S.Spellen

Photo: S.Spellen

Photo: S.Spellen

Photo: S.Spellen

Photo: S.Spellen

3 Comment

  • The one in East New York (corner of Miller ave. and Liberty ave.) is just as nice but will probably be torn down since “Landmarkers” don’t really push for our side of town and developers get to do whatever they want. The building would make amazing apartments or a community center.

  • Montrose Morris

    Colombian, the LPC doesn’t just annoint buildings as landmarks. They ideally want the communities those buildings are in to actively participate in the process by lobbying for it. I know they are aware of the Liberty Ave station, it pops up in the news all the time, in the “isn’t this a shame” category. But if you really want to save it. local people need to submit a form called an RFE, (request for evaluation) to the LPC, and more importantly, rally up some support from local elected officials and neighbors. Even more important would be contacting the church, or whoever still owns the property, and seeing what could be done to rehab the building. If they have an end use for the building instead of just sitting on it, that would help. If it gets landmarked, it will cost more to rehab it, but on the other hand, it will protect it from simply being torn down. Also, a National Register designation might be something to pursue, as well. It won’t prevent a tear down, but it would give a developer a hefty Federal and perhaps State tax break for work done to rehab it. This designation also takes time and money, but would be worth it. If you really want to pursue this, please write me, and I can tell you more.

  • Dead on as to the citizenry, Monty. Nice detail of the rondel. Christopher