Grand Union Tea Company 68 Jay Street

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Before Dumbo teemed with tourists, residents and artists, it was one of the busiest industrial neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Large food companies like the Grand Union Tea Company were major contributors to jobs and commerce.

Name: Former Grand Union Tea Company, now offices and studios
Address: 68 Jay Street
Cross Streets: Water and Front Streets
Neighborhood: Dumbo
Year Built: 1915
Architectural Style: “Daylight factory” with transitional Queen Anne elements
Architect: William Higginson
Other works by architect: Industrial architecture in Greenpoint, Dumbo and Manhattan. In Dumbo, most of the Gair buildings, including 1 Main Street.
Landmarked: Yes, part of the Dumbo Historic District (2007)

A block-wide and -long warehouse for tea

Construction began on this massive warehouse in 1896, the same year that Frank, Cyrus and Charles Jones brought their Jones Brothers/Grand Union Tea Company to Brooklyn.

This part of the block-long, block-wide complex was the last to be built, out of modern steel frame construction and brick. It is a transitional example of a “daylight factory.”

Daylight factories were introduced in the 20th century. They mostly refer to the reinforced concrete factories of the day that allowed for more windows and natural light to flood the work spaces. This construction also allowed for fewer interior beams and more open spaces. (more…)

2307 Beverley Rd, Sears, NS, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Sears is one of the nation’s most recognizable store names. This landmarked building has been a shopping destination for Brooklynites for over 80 years.

Name: Sears, Roebuck & Company Department Store
Address: 2307 Beverley Road
Cross Streets: Corner of Bedford Avenue
Neighborhood: Flatbush
Year Built: 1932, addition added in 1940
Architectural Style: Late Art Deco
Architect: Nimmons, Carr & Wright, with Alton Craft
Other Buildings by Architect: NC & W — in Chicago, various Sears stores and private homes for Sears execs
Landmarked: Yes, individual landmark (2012)

Sears & Roebuck, Mail-Order Giant to the Nation

It’s hard to believe, but this store, which has always been a Sears, has been here for over 80 years. Just like its neighbor, the recently revived Kings Theatre located directly behind it, this Sears has been a Flatbush institution.

Sears started out in the 1890s as a mail-order catalog that sold a huge variety of goods to customers in rural areas who had little to no access to stores and shops. Its first retail store was built in 1925. Based in Chicago, Sears & Roebuck expanded all across the country.

Because of its dealings with Manhattan’s garment center, Sears was a presence in NYC long before its bricks and mortar stores were in place. When the company sought to expand its retail presence in the New York City area, Flatbush was seen as an ideal location. (more…)


Brooklyn, one building at a time.

This is one of the oldest houses in Brooklyn Heights. Its place next door to the historic Plymouth Church also assured that a lot of history passed through these doors over the years.

Name: Wood-frame house
Address: 69 Orange Street
Cross Streets: Hicks and Henry streets
Neighborhood: Brooklyn Heights
Year Built: 1828
Architectural Style: Federal, with later Victorian add-ons and alterations
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: Yes, part of Brooklyn Heights Historic District (1965)

Almost Two Centuries of Architectural Changes

This Federal-style clapboard house has seen a lot of physical changes in its 187-year history. Sometime in the post–Civil War years, someone added another story to the house using a mansard roof.

There were also changes to the windows — which were lengthened — as well as the door and the railings. According to Mrs. Iago Gladston, who lived in the house in 1961, there was also a porch she had removed 24 years before when she and her husband moved in.

That porch would also have been a Victorian-era addition, but Mrs. Gladston didn’t like the way it jutted over the front steps. She was interviewed for a Long Island Historical Society article in 1961.

There was also a house next door, to the left. It was a similar clapboard house that can be seen in old photographs of Plymouth Church. (more…)

356 Fulton St. CapOneBank, CB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Downtown Brooklyn is full of wonderful old 19th century buildings of all kinds. It also has a small collection of more modern bank buildings, most of them built in the 1960s and ’70s. Here’s one of them.

Name: Former Equitable Federal Savings and Loan, now Capital One Bank
Address: 356 Fulton Street
Cross Streets: Corner of Red Hook Lane
Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
Year Built: 1967-1968
Architectural Style: Neo-Formalism (perhaps stretching it a bit)
Architect: Goldberg-Epstein Associates
Other works by architect: Lincoln Savings Bank in Gravesend, public housing
Landmarked: No

Downtown Brooklyn is layered with architectural history, making it one of Brooklyn’s more interesting neighborhoods. A single block can span the distance between the years before the Civil War up until the present.

This bank building is a bit of mid-20th century suburbia right in the heart of the city.

Mid-20th Century Neo-Formalism

Adolf Goldberg and his firm, Goldberg-Epstein Associates, built suburban banks like this, as well as more anonymous-looking housing developments and other buildings. Goldberg retired in 1967, so this is one of his last buildings. (more…)

410-418 Myrtle Ave, NS, PS 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

A local entrepreneur and developer built these buildings on Clinton Hill’s only commercial corridor, and then put his brother’s bank on the corner lot.

Name: Storefronts with flats above
Address: 410-418 Myrtle Avenue
Cross Streets: Clinton and Vanderbilt Avenues
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
Year Built: 1887-1888
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: George Walgrove
Other works by architect: 287-293 DeKalb Avenue, Clinton Hill; row houses in Manhattan; several buildings on Riker’s Island
Landmarked: No

A Commercial Hub

This set of storefront and apartment buildings was built on one of Clinton Hill’s busiest corners. The Queen Anne style of architecture was a mixture of materials, shapes and textures, and these buildings fit the bill.

The architect, George Walgrove, mixed brownstone, brick, pressed metal, and terra cotta, with arched Romanesque Revival windows, a nice corner turret and expansive windows on the ground floor commercial spaces.

Built for the Family Bank

John Englis was the son of a Greenpoint shipbuilder. His father’s company built many of the sailing ships that plied the China route. After his father’s death, he and his sons renamed the company John Englis & Sons. They produced some of the finest steam ships that sailed up and down the Hudson River. (more…)

457, 461 Vanderbilt, BeyondMyKen for Wiki Commons 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Carriage houses and other service buildings were as important to the development of a neighborhood as the houses themselves. This is a particularly elegant example.

Name: Former carriage houses
Address:457 and 461 Vanderbilt Avenue
Cross Streets: Gates and Greene Avenues
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
Year Built: between 1880 and 1887
Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

Soaring Arches and Room for Horses, Too

These Clinton Hill carriage houses are among my favorite in the neighborhood. It’s too bad we know so little about who built or owned them. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out they were designed by one of the well-known architects working in the area. They are really good, especially for service buildings.

First of all, the overall brickwork here is first rate. Late 19th century Brooklyn had excellent bricklayers.

There’s some Rundbogenstil styling going on here — soaring round arches which are typical of this German progenitor of American Romanesque Revival styles. It’s almost ecclesiastical, the arches stretching three stories high, with two upper stories of windows. (more…)

186 St. Johns, Mem.Pres.Chch. BeyondMyKen, Wiki Commons 1

Discussions of our 19th-century communities would be incomplete without a look at their houses of worship. These buildings represent some of the best architectural work in these neighborhoods. Some were designed by specialists, while others were designed by the same men who designed many of the houses.

Name: Memorial Presbyterian Church
Address: 186 St. Johns Place
Cross Streets: Corner of 7th Avenue
Neighborhood: Park Slope
Year Built: 1881-1888
Architectural Style: Late Victorian Gothic Revival
Architect: Church — Pugin &Walter (1881-83).  Chapel and Sunday school — Marshall & Walter (1888)
Other Works by Architect: P&W — greenhouse at Lyndhurst and McDougal Street Baptist Church in Manhattan; M&W — hotels, townhouses in Manhattan, NYC-area churches
Landmarked: Yes, part of Park Slope Historic District (1973)

Although often overshadowed by the larger churches in the neighborhood, Memorial Presbyterian is one of the great churches of Park Slope.

This corner of St. Johns Place and 7th Avenue has three churches on it, with several more very close by. Grace United Methodist is on the opposite corner of 7th Ave, with St. John’s Episcopal Church across the street, mid-block.

This was indeed a holy corner on Sunday mornings. (more…)

330-334 Ellery St. PS 52, SSpellen 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

This 1883 schoolhouse, one of hundreds designed by Brooklyn school architect James W. Naughton, has been repurposed as space for artists and performers.

Name: Former Public School 52, now “The Schoolhouse”
Address: 330-334 Ellery Street
Cross Streets: Broadway and Beaver Street
Neighborhood: Bushwick
Year Built: 1883
Architectural Style: Late Italianate with some High Victorian Gothic detailing
Architect: James W. Naughton
Other Works by Architect: Many other school buildings in Brooklyn, including PS 9 Annex in Prospect Heights, Girls High School and Boys High School, both in Bedford Stuyvesant, and PS 107 in Park Slope
Landmarked: No

School Architecture in the City of Brooklyn
Bushwick’s first school was built in 1662. That one was augmented in 1815 by the building of Bushwick District School 2, on Stanwix and Noll streets. Bushwick was still an independent town back then.

In 1855, Bushwick became part of the city of Brooklyn, and the school’s designation was changed to Public School 24. By the 1880s, Brooklyn’s Board of Education had changed greatly in just 30 years.

There were new ideas about educating students and a new Superintendent of Buildings, James W. Naughton, was settling in after replacing Samuel B. Leonard, the last holder of that job.

A Good Building Can Help Make a Good School
James Naughton, an Irish Immigrant who studied architecture at Cooper Union, was one of many educators who realized that the school building itself could be an aid to good education. (more…)

324A-340 NY Ave, NS, PS 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Rapid development in the first decades of the 20th century gave us some of the last one-family row houses in this area. These homes are unique in the neighborhood; the product of one of the large development companies working at this time.

Name: Row houses
Address: 324A-340 New York Avenue
Cross Streets: Union and President Streets
Neighborhood: Crown Heights South
Year Built: 1909
Architectural Style: Medieval Revival
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

“American Basement Houses” in an Eclectic Medieval Style

These nine houses were built as single family row houses. They are deceptively narrow, just inches shy of 17 feet wide, although they don’t appear that narrow in the streetscape.

They were designed in an inventive and rather eclectic style reminiscent of medieval buildings, no doubt influenced by the new American infatuation with historic European styles. Tudor Revival, Medieval Revival, and other romantic storybook influences were making great headway in residential design, especially in America’s new prosperous suburbs.

The Brooklyn Eagle notes that these houses were called “American Basement Houses,” what we generally call English basement, ie – no stoop, no underground cellar, with mechanicals on the garden level floor. The parlor floor was above, with bedrooms on the top floor.

The large windows on the ground floor brought in lots of light, and were originally diamond-paned leaded glass windows, as were other windows in the front of the house. You can see that a few of them remain in various houses in the group.

The front room would have been the formal dining room, with the mechanical room and the kitchen behind it.


224-226 Shepherd Ave, AmNumMach, CB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.
This factory for the American Numbering Machine Company once shaped the economic life of East New York. Today, the building shapes the spiritual lives of its congregants.

Name: Former American Numbering Machine Company, now New Genesis Christian Center
Address: 224-226 Shepherd Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner of Atlantic Avenue
Neighborhood: Cypress Hills
Year Built: 1919
Architectural Style: 19th century brick factory
Architect: Harold G. Dangler
Other works by architect: Manufacturing buildings and garages in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens
Landmarked: No

Windows Giving Praise-Worthy Natural Light — Now Bricked-In
The American Numbering Machine Company started on Essex Street in East New York in 1908. By 1912, the company needed a new factory building with more room. Architect Harold Dangler designed and built the factory building at 224 Shepherd Avenue in 1912, and expanded it to its present size in 1919.

A 19th century-style two-story brick factory building, this facility was praised for its many windows, allowing lots of natural light into the work space. Those windows have since been bricked in and much reduced.

Pop quiz: What is a numbering machine?

333-337 State Street, SB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

These three flats buildings represent a change in the development of Boerum Hill. But their colorful and criminal tenants (in the past!) are what really sets them apart.

Name: Flats buildings
Address: 333-337 State Street
Cross Streets: Hoyt and Bond Streets
Neighborhood: Boerum Hill
Year Built: Sometime between 1887 and 1895
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

Apartments a la Chateau

333-337 State Street consists of three five-story flats buildings designed to look like one large chateau. The unknown architect of this project designed impressive entryways which originally had ashlar (rough cut) stone, and no doubt, stained glass and other decorative elements underneath the arches.

Since the building dates to the last decade of the 19th century, there may have always been elevators. The extra stories on the towers and center are now sealed off, but may have once been public spaces, or simply servant’s quarters.

The flats first show up on the 1903 city maps. They show three flats buildings built with air shafts in the middle and back, allowing every room in the flat to have a window and ventilation. Each building also had a center skylight.

The buildings would have originally had two apartments per floor, or ten apartments per building, 30, in all. Today, there are four apartments per floor, and the building now has 60 units. It is called the Manor House Apartments. (more…)

Clinton Hill Brooklyn 536-540 Clinton Ave

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

This row of three Neo-Grec row houses is unique in all of New York City. There used to be four, and they were made of an old material that was making a new comeback in 1870s America.

Name: Row houses
Address: 536-540 Clinton Avenue
Cross Streets: Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenue
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
Year Built: 1872
Architectural Style: French Neo-Grec with Second Empire mansard roofs
Architect: A. S. Barnes
Landmarked: No, but really, really should be

Landmark-worthy material
This group of three houses — originally four — were built in 1872 by A. S. Barnes, who is credited for the design. They are basically Neo-Grec in style, with some important differences. Barnes added mansard roofs and two asymmetrical top floor dormers, as well as two-story, three sided bays.

All of the doors and windows are framed with substantial lintels and framed with decorative incised ornament. The cast iron railings on the remaining buildings are original. As can be seen in the illustration below, the houses also once had cast iron cresting on the roof.

If that was all there was to these houses, they’d still be exceedingly fine. The detail work on this group is first rate.

But what makes them special — and should make them landmark-worthy — is the basic building material. These houses are not painted brownstone, sandstone, or limestone. They are made of Béton Coignet cast stone – concrete. (more…)