Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Former East New York Savings Bank, now M&T Bank
Address: 91 Pennsylvania Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner Atlantic Avenue
Neighborhood: East New York
Year Built: 1889-1890
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Architect: Richard Upjohn, Jr.
Other work by architect: St. George Episcopal Church, Bedford Stuyvesant; St. Paul’s Church, Cobble Hill, State Capital Building in Hartford, Conn.; First National Bank, Salt Lake City, and much more
The story: The part of town we know now as East New York was the 26th Ward in the late 19th century. Considering the 1st Ward consisted of the piers and streets of Brooklyn Heights, this was a far-flung territory, and more proof that the city of Brooklyn was indeed huge, and one of the first rate cities of the United States. The people who settled in the 26th Ward were a determined bunch. East New York had once been New Lots, and New Lots had been an offshoot of Flatbush. Both were settled, beginning in the late 1600s, by the Dutch who established farms on the land, both large and small.
After the Civil War, and moving towards the end of the century, one by one, the Dutch farmsteads were bought out by land developers. The names of the new streets cut across the old fields and meadows were a list of many of these large landowning farmers; Lott, Rapelye, Schenck, Remsen, Stoothoff, Vanderveer, Wyckoff, and others. By the 1870s, large groups of Germans from Bushwick began to settle here, and open businesses and build homes.
One of the largest landowners in the latter half of the century was a man named Edward F. Linton. He and a group of prominent East New Yorkers worked diligently to bring city services to this, the furthest outpost in Brooklyn. He was a tireless promoter of the area, and almost singlehandedly got the city to pave the streets and sidewalks, lay sewer lines, put in streetlights and bring mass transit to the area. His story was told in a series of Walkabouts called “The Landlord of East New York,” beginning here.
The earliest community leaders in ENY really wanted their own bank. Just about every neighborhood had at least one community bank, founded by wealthy local merchants and businessmen, and supported by much of the rest of the community. A bank meant that your community was putting down roots for the long haul. It also meant you didn’t have to get on a train, trolley, or carriage to another neighborhood to do your banking. (more…)