Building of the Day: 131 Livingston Street

The BOTD is a no-frills look at interesting structures of all types and from all neighborhoods. There will be old, new, important, forgotten, public, private, good and bad. Whatever strikes our fancy. We hope you enjoy.

Address: 131 Livingston Street, between
Name: Department Of Education Building
Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
Year Built: 1900
Architectural Style: Beaux-Arts
Architect: C.B.J. Snyder
Landmarked: No, but should be

Why chosen: Downtown Brooklyn has a wealth of unnoticed and under appreciated, but fine, buildings. This is one of them. I always thought this building was originally some kind of private club, as its wealthy looking Beaux-Arts design is highly reminiscent of some of Manhattan’s best establishments. Tucked back on Livingston, off the retail path, this building still has a powerful presence. It turns out, I am partially right, it is a club, but the members were not industrialists, but members of the educational bureaucracy. CBJ Snyder was the Superintendent of Building for the Board Of Education between 1891 and 1923. During that time he revolutionized school architecture, and built hundreds of schools throughout the five boroughs. Many of NYC’s most famous and iconic schools were designed by him, as well as many little known neighborhood schools, a great deal of which still stand. More on Snyder and his schools at another time. This is one of his rare non-school designs, although for the school system, and it is very good. Interestingly enough, the building is actually in a L shape, and hooks around with frontage on Red Hook Lane. It is also an earlier building than the more well known 110 Livingston, and housed the Board of Education until it moved to the McKim, Mead and White structure in 1940. That building, incidentally, WAS designed as a private club, for the Elks, and was converted to use for the Board Of Education. Today, 131 Livingston still has offices for the school system, now called the Department of Education.


Photo: Red Hook Lane side of the building, Googlemaps.

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