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You can’t celebrate Brooklyn or 10 years of Brownstoner without the Williamsburgh Bank building, one of Brooklyn’s greatest structures.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Former Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building
Address: 1 Hanson Place, corner of Ashland Place
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: 1927-29
Architectural Style: Art Deco, with Byzantine and Romanesque influences
Architect: Halsey, McCormack & Helmer
Other buildings by architects: Central Methodist Church, next door, redo of Former Dime SB at Fulton Mall, Former Kings County SB at Nostrand and Eastern Parkway, former Brevoort SB on Fulton Street, Bed Stuy.
Landmarked: Yes. Brooklyn Academy of Music HD,1977. Bank interior, lobby, landmarked in 1996.

The story: Like thousands of Brooklynites who worked or walked in the area, I used this building hundreds of times to check the time. My mother’s dentist was in this building. For many people, this building IS Brooklyn, almost as much as the Brooklyn Bridge is. For many years, Brooklyn’s tallest building, (second now, thanks to the Brooklyner) the Williamsburgh Bank Building is an icon of our borough, as well as one of New York City’s most beautiful skyscrapers.

The firm of Halsey, McCormack and Helmer produced some great bank buildings, not only in Brooklyn, but also the Dollar Savings Bank in the Bronx, and the Greenwich Savings Bank on 57th Street in Manhattan. The firm organized in 1920, with Hayward Halsey, a developer, former banker George H. McCormack, and architect Robert Helmer, who took charge of the design office, and is responsible for actually designing all of their buildings. If you think about it, this partnership was perfect. Banker McCormick was well-connected to the industry, and could get their foot in the door. He also knew intimately what was needed in the design of a proper bank. Helmer designed, and Halsey got it built.
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1940 E. 36 St. Lotthouse. Stu-Joe 1

We could do a month of important buildings in Brooklyn and not cover them all. But this one has to go on the list. We all come from somewhere, and Brooklyn began with houses like this. Our 10th anniversary tribute continues.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Hendrick I. Lott House
Address: 1940 East 36th Street
Cross Streets: Fillmore Avenue and Avenue S
Neighborhood: Marine Park
Year Built: Oldest part 1719, main house 1800
Architectural Style: Vernacular Dutch Colonial
Architect/Builder: Henrick I. Lott, building upon earlier Johannes Lott house
Landmarked: Yes, individual landmark (1989) and National Register of Historic Places.

The story: We don’t often stray far beyond brownstone Brooklyn and Victorian Flatbush, but it’s time some attention was paid to some of the oldest houses in the borough. There aren’t many left. The Dutch settlers who came here in the early and mid-1600s gave us the towns that would make up Kings County, and their names, many of which are quite familiar to us as street and neighborhood names. Lefferts, Remsen, Lott, Schermerhorn, Vanderbilt, Wyckoff, Van Nostrand, Suydam, Van Siclen, Schenck, Van Brunt, and many more.

Their names remain, but their homes, by and large, are long gone. We here in New York City are always growing so fast, we think nothing of plowing under the past, and replacing it as soon as possible with the new, only to see that disappear in time. This is not a 21st century conceit; it’s been going on for centuries. Consequently, most of the early homes of the 17th and 18th centuries are gone. Those precious few that remain have survived mostly because the families that built them have held on to them, literally, for centuries. The location helps, too. The further away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, the better, when it comes to a house beating the odds of survival. The Lott house is one of those lucky few that is still with us. (more…)

121 NY Ave, NYMethChurch, SSPellen 4

Here is the second in my celebration of important Brooklyn buildings covered over the years in Brownstoner. Happy 10th anniversary.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Originally New York Avenue Methodist Church, now Union United Methodist
Address: 121 New York Avenue
Cross Streets: Dean and Bergen Streets
Neighborhood: Crown Heights North
Year Built: 1891
Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival
Architect: Josiah Cleveland Cady
Other Buildings by Architect: Manhattan: Old Metropolitan Opera House (demolished) 77th St. southern wing of the Museum of Natural History. In Brooklyn – 1290 Pacific Street in Crown Heights North, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Williamsburg.
Landmarked: Yes, part of Phase I of Crown Heights North HD (2007)

The story: This church is the embodiment of the hymn “A mighty fortress is our God.” It’s a massive brick masterpiece of seven connected masses stretching the entire block, consisting of the entrance porch, vestibule, auditorium, tower, Sunday school, parlor and rectory. Depending on which way you approach the building, it’s a visual treat, and a marvel of design, materials and construction. (more…)

Prospect Park Boathouse, SSpellen 1

This week we are celebrating Brownstoner’s 10th anniversary. I’ve picked four favorites from past columns to celebrate. Here’s the first:

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Audubon Center at the Boathouse, aka Prospect Park Boathouse
Address: 101 East Drive (offical address)
Neighborhood: Park Slope
Year Built: 1905
Architectural Style: Italian Renaissance Revival
Architect: Helmle & Huberty, 1999 restoration — Ralph Carmosino
Other buildings by architect: Tennis House in Prospect Park. St. Barbara’s Church, Bushwick. St. Gregory’s Church, Crown Heights North. Bossert Hotel, Brooklyn Heights. Park Shelter, McGolrick Park, Greenpoint
Landmarked: Yes

The story: If I could ever decide on a definitive list of the 10 best buildings in Brooklyn, I’d have to find room for this one. It’s simply, and in the best sense of the word simply, magnificent. It also has a great history, and we are very lucky that it’s still here.

When Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed this great park, they built manmade structures to enhance the natural beauty of the park, and provide places to congregate for events, or sit and enjoy the natural preserve. The first boathouse, built in 1876, sat on piers, and faced south. In 1905, this Classically inspired, terra-cotta encased building was designed to replace it. It faces west, by the way, purposefully to catch the sunsets over the water. (more…)

797 Broadway, SB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Mixed use commercial loft building
Address: 797 Broadway
Cross Streets: Corner Fayette Street
Neighborhood: Bushwick
Year Built: Mid to late 1880s
Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival
Architect: Probably/perhaps Theobald Engelhardt
Other Buildings by Architect: Factories, breweries, row houses, private homes, churches, loft buildings, warehouses, and more, mostly here in the Eastern District of Bushwick/Williamsburg/Eastern Bed Stuy
Landmarked: No

The story: Brooklyn’s Broadway is one of those great streets that needs to be walked. If you are interested in architecture, Broadway can be immensely frustrating, because the elevated tracks obscure everything, including some great commercial architecture. The tracks also make decent photography of those buildings next to impossible. If you are in a car, you miss a lot of details, and if you are driving that car, your eyes should be on the street, because Broadway seems to bring out the crazy in drivers. But the good stuff is there, nonetheless, and if you get a chance, start walking and look up once in a while. One of the buildings you see may be this one, on the corner of Broadway and Fayette Street, between Park and Flushing Avenues. (more…)

13-17 Lexington Ave, Pincus and Tobias factory , SSPellen 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Former Pincus & Tobias Shoe Factory
Address: 13-23 Lexington Avenue
Cross Streets: Grand and Classon Avenues
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
Year Built: 1911, rebuilt around 1922
Architectural Style: Early 20th century brick factory building
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: Brooklyn was once home to a large and profitable shoe manufacturing industry. Yes, shoes were once made in Brooklyn; all kinds of shoes. We had factories that made shoes and boots for men, women and children. There were factories that made lower end products, mid-priced products and high end and fashionable shoes and boots. The companies were scattered all over the manufacturing ends of Brooklyn, but by the beginning of the 20th century, were mainly centered in the eastern Clinton Hill/Western Bedford/southern Wallabout corridor.

Back then, the Myrtle and Lexington Avenue el trains rumbled overhead, and frequent trolley service ran along the north/south avenues, making this area perfect for workers to commute to easily. Factory and other industrial buildings sprang up here, and for the most part, still stand. One of the largest shoe factories in the area was that of Pincus & Tobias Inc., the makers of fine women’s shoes and boots. (more…)

38-42 Washington Avenue, SSPellen 2

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Mixed use retail and residential buildings
Address: 38-44 Washington Avenue, aka 200 Flushing Avenue
Cross Streets: Flushing and Park Avenues
Neighborhood: Wallabout
Year Built: 1907
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival with Romanesque and classical details
Architect: Benjamin Finkensieper
Other Buildings by Architect: Knox Hat Factory building in Crown Heights, and many other factories, warehouses, churches and tenement buildings throughout Brooklyn.
Landmarked: No, but part of a proposed LPC Wallabout Industrial Historic District, and a National Register nomination for the same.

The story: At the turn of the 20th century, the factories and warehouses of Wallabout and the activities within the Brooklyn Navy Yard were at an all-time high. Only the World War II years would surpass it. This group of buildings was built for Henry Waldeck, a very successful builder and developer who did a lot of work in both industrial and residential areas. A large fire on this, and surrounding blocks in 1907 damaged or destroyed the wood framed buildings that were on this site, giving Waldeck, who had owned many of them already, the perfect excuse to rebuild, and build better. (more…)

288 Jackson St. Gnpt Hosp. SSpellen 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time

Address: 288 Jackson Avenue
Cross Streets: Kingsland, Maspeth and Debevoise Avenue
Neighborhood: East Williamsburg
Year Built: 1912-1914
Architectural Style: Northern Italian Renaissance Revival
Architect: Frank J. Helmle
Other Buildings by Architect: Bossert Hotel, St. Barbara’s Catholic Church, St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, Prospect Park Boathouse, Greenpoint Savings Bank, Williamsburg Trust Bank, and many other buildings.
Landmarked: No, unfortunately

The story: As the population of a neighborhood or city grows, the need for more hospitals and medical care facilities also grow. By the end of the first decade of the 20th century, the population of Williamsburg, Bushwick and Greenpoint had swelled to enormous proportions, and so had the industry in the area. Most of the people who most needed these facilities could not afford medical care or private hospitals, so the city’s Department of Public Charities decided to erect a new public hospital in the middle of these neighborhoods. (more…)

1505 Albemarle Rd. SSpellen 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Henry P. Reid House
Address: 1505 Albemarle Road
Cross Streets: Corner Marlborough Road
Neighborhood: Prospect Park South
Year Built: 1904
Architectural Style: Queen Anne with Medieval/Tudor details
Architect: John J. Petit
Other Buildings by Architect: 1510 Albemarle, 1519 Albemarle, 131 Buckingham, and many more in PPS
Landmarked: Yes, part of PPS HD (1979)

The story: This Queen Anne house is one of my favorites in Prospect Park South, a neighborhood with an abundant wealth of large and impressive houses. At over 3700 square feet, this is a lot of house. Part of me would love to have this kind of room, and would love every inch of spacious period goodness that I pray is in there. The other part of me runs screaming at the thought of proper upkeep, heating costs, and trying to keep a behemoth like this clean. It’s probably just as well that my admiration will be from afar. And there is a lot to admire. John J. Petit designed this home to be an anchor for the intersection of Marlborough and Albemarle Roads, one of the more impressive street corners in Dean Alvord’s upper class enclave. (more…)

2840 Atlantic Ave, Borden's Plant, NS, PS

Here’s another entry from the Montrose archives. If you’ve traveled along Atlantic Avenue in East New York, you’ll recognize this building:

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Former Borden’s Diary Factory
Address: 2840 Atlantic Avenue
Cross Streets: Barbey and Schenck Streets
Neighborhood: East New York
Year Built: 1914-1915
Architectural Style: Very simplified Medieval German-inspired factory building
Architect: Otto Strack
Other Works by Architect: E.W. Browning Company Building, 11 W. 17th St, Manhattan; Pabst Theater, Kalvelage House, both in Milwaukee
Landmarked: No

The story: When we think of important landmarks that should be preserved, we think of buildings like Grand Central Station, or the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, or Gracie Mansion. If we really appreciate architecture, we may expand our list to buildings like the Eagle Warehouse in DUMBO, or the Riverside Apartments in Brooklyn Heights. It’s not very often that we consider factories on these lists, because factories are usually utilitarian, no-nonsense kinds of buildings that aren’t usually known for their architectural or even historical worth. But there are always exceptions to the rule, and East New York’s Borden Dairy Factory is one. (more…)

126 St. Felix St. BMS, CB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Brooklyn Music School
Address: 126 St. Felix Street
Cross Streets: Lafayette Avenue and Hanson Place
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: Original houses- 1850s, but totally reconfigured in 1920-1928
Architectural Style: Vaguely Mediterranean/Spanish Revival
Architect: Original architect unknown, 1920 reconfiguration by Meyer & Mathieu, 1928 addition by John Infanger of Slee & Bryson.
Other buildings by architect: Hans Meyer taught architecture in NYC schools, and is on record for alterations at Tudor City in Manhattan.
Landmarked: Yes, part of BAM HD

The story: Sandwiched in between the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Hanson Place Methodist Church is the Brooklyn Music School. This venerable institution is almost always forgotten when most people think about Fort Greene and its arts institutions, which is really a shame, as it has a long and proud history in the Brooklyn community. Many well-known musicians and performers got their start here, either as children taking lessons, or as emerging young artists taking the professional stage for the first time. This school should be as famous as its much larger next door neighbor. (more…)

Parachute Jump, SSpellen 3

Montrose is taking a much needed vacation this week. We hope you enjoy some of these older posts, beginning with an icon of summers past.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Parachute Jump
Address: Boardwalk at 16th Street
Cross Streets: In between Surf Avenue, Riegelmann Boardwalk, and 16th and 17th streets
Neighborhood: Coney Island
Year Built: 1939
Architectural Style: N/A
Architect: Invented by Commander James E. Strong, Architects for placement at CI – Michael Mario, Edwin W. Kleinert : Engineered by Elwyn E. Seelye & Co.
Landmarked: Yes, Individually landmarked in 1989

The story: When I first started collecting books about Brooklyn, it used to annoy me no end that much of my reading and research seemed to take the position that you got off the Brooklyn Bridge and there was the Coney Island of the Past. There seemed to be the implication that aside from the bridge, Coney Island and the Dodgers, there really wasn’t all that much else to write about. I had to go to Coney Island a couple of times, and really get into the history, as well as present day state of the place, to grow to appreciate the meeting of real estate, history, society and nostalgia that is Coney Island. And you can’t go there without seeing the Parachute Jump towering over the boardwalk. (more…)