You may not think to look at it, but the building that dominates a stretch of Flatbush Avenue near Prospect Park once filled the surrounding area of Prospect Lefferts Gardens with the delicious smell of bread.
Built by the General Bakery Company, the building at 479-497 Flatbush Avenue was known as the Bond Bread Bakery, after the once famous Bond Bread produced here.
Locals who lived in the area in the mid-20th century remember the “tantalizing smell of baking bread” wafting over the neighborhood, as Brownstoner columnist Suzanne Spellen has written. The smell may have even carried over to Ebbets Field, just a few blocks away.
The factory was built in 1925 as the company was expanding and food manufacturing in general was booming in New York. While one might expect a commercial bakery to be a utilitarian hulk of a building plopped down into an industrial area, the structure makes a grand architectural statement along the avenue.
The architect has gone uncredited but research indicates it may be the work of Corry B. Comstock, a New York architect and engineer known for factory buildings. Comstock designed the Ward Bakery Building on Pacific Street, demolished as part of the Atlantic Yards Project.
He is also known to have worked for the General Baking Company, designing a Bond Bread factory in Washington, D.C., in 1929. (Which, coincidently, was also built near an existing sports field, Griffith Stadium.)
Whoever the architect, he or she designed an industrial brick building with simple massing and restrained classical detailing, including a dentiled cornice and bracketed balconies.
The Flatbush Avenue facade is dominated by a clock tower, whose red circles mark where the Bond Bread signs once hung. The signs have vanished along with most (but not all) of the clock hands — and the clock is no longer functioning.
Set between Flatbush and Washington avenues, the building has two major facades visible, with a shorter tower on the Washington Avenue side.
The bakery smokestack still stands, but no longer wafts a yeasty aroma over the neighborhood. In 1971, the General Host Corporation (the corporate descendant of the General Bakery Company) sold the building to the Denk Baking Corporation.
Denk produced its popular Grossinger’s rye bread here until it shut down production in 1996, ending a history of more than 70 years of bread baking on the site.
Denk sold the building in 1997, and the Phat Albert store moved in. It has had a presence in the building ever since, although other tenants have changed over the years.
[Pictures by Susan De Vries]
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