Two Brooklyn Heights Bank-Row Buildings Are Now Landmarks

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Brooklyn Heights gained two more landmarks with the designation of 181 and 185 Montague Street Tuesday by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The two buildings are located on the commercial corridor of Montague Street and are just outside the existing Brooklyn Heights and the Borough Hall Skyscraper historic districts.

In designating the structures, the Commission noted their significance as part of the historic Bank Row of Montague Street, a stretch of the street dominated in the early 20th century by banks, insurance companies and real estate agencies. Together the two buildings reflect the significant design shifts in the early 20th century — 181 Montague, built in 1904, is a classical temple to banking and 185 Montague, built just 25 years later, is an Art Deco monument to the modern age.

The designations “complete the Commission’s collection of historic financial services institutions that highlight the commercial history of this important Brooklyn corridor,” according to the LPC.

brooklyn landmark brooklyn heights 181 montague street

Photo by Susan De Vries

Originally constructed in 1904 as the People’s Trust Company, 181 Montague Street is a richly ornamented Classical Revival style building designed by Mowbray & Uffinger. A massive pediment supported by marble columns dominates the facade.

The columns weigh 28 tons each and were once the largest ever quarried, according to the designation report. While the People’s Trust Company no longer operates out of the building, the banking use continues as it is currently a Citibank branch.

Just next door, 185 Montague Street was constructed as the National Title Guaranty Company Building. Completed in 1930, the 16-story Art Deco building was designed by Corbett, Harrison & MacMurray, proponents of the modern skyscraper and one of three firms involved in the design of Rockefeller Center.

While the projecting bays of the building shoot skyward, the base of the building features a “pierced limestone screen” by architectural sculpture Rene Chambellan. The building now has retail on the ground floor.

brooklyn landmark brooklyn heights 181 montague

Photo by Susan De Vries

The Brooklyn Heights Association had pushed for the buildings to be included in the Borough Hall Skyscraper District in 2011 and continued to urge protection after they were omitted from the district. After years of advocacy, the buildings went through the recent designation process fairly quickly.

They were put on the LPC calendar for designation consideration in August and a public hearing was held in November.

“The BHA is grateful to the LPC for its decision to extend landmark protection to 181 and 185 Montague Street,” Peter Bray, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, told Brownstowner. “Together with the Brooklyn Trust Company Building at 177 Montague, they comprise an incomparable group of architecturally significant buildings representing three different but harmonious styles.”

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