Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Imperial Apartments
Address: 1198 Pacific Street, corner of Bedford Avenue
Neighborhood: Crown Heights North
Year Built: 1892
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Architect: Montrose W. Morris. Restoration: GM Architects, 2006
Other buildings by architect: Bedfordshire, next door, Chatelaine Hotel, across the street. Also Alhambra Apts and Renaissance Apts on Nostrand Avenue, Bed Stuy, much of Hancock St, between Marcy-Tompkins, Bed Stuy.
Landmarked: Yes, individual landmark, 1986.
Any architectural tour of Crown Heights leads one to stand in front of this building. It is the Dakota of Crown Heights North, a magnificent apartment building designed for a wealthy customer who didn’t want the expense or maintenance of an entire house, but had certain expectations toward comfort, size and amenities.
Montrose Morris was in the prime of his design career here, and was the go-to architect for Louis Seitz, an upscale apartment building developer who had helped launch Morris’ career with his commission for the Alhambra Apartments on nearby Nostrand Avenue at Macon St, in 1889.
The two of them collaborated several times after that, including this building, the Bedfordshire, right next door, and the Renaissance, also on Nostrand, all three around 1892.
Morris is better known for his Romanesque Revival buildings; the Alhambra, the Arlington in Brooklyn Hts, and the Roanoke in Fort Greene, as well as his Hancock St, and DeKalb Avenue single family houses.
But by the early 1890’s, he was in touch with the new, more Classic sensibility that would really flower at the Chicago Exhibition in 1893. This building is a celebration of that new Classicism, bursting with columns, arches, and Classical ornament, inspired by French Renaissance chateaux.
The use of light colored brick and bands of terra-cotta trim are typical of Morris’ attention to detail, and are highlighted by the patinated copper roof, decorative window frames and dormer accents. He also lavishly uses his favorite roof detail, the turreted tower or bay, as well as deep coffered arched bays, best seen on the Bedford Avenue side.
When the building first opened, it was hailed as the finest apartment building in Brooklyn, and in the posh Grant Square area, a rival to the Dakota, according to the Daily Eagle.
Each apartment had 7 to 9 rooms, with the public rooms, the parlors, library and dining room, leading from one to the other through large pocket doors, enabling them all to become one huge entertaining space. The finest woodwork and usual furnishings were used. The earliest tenants were stockbrokers, importers and bankers.
Alas, these large apartment buildings always seem to suffer the worst when neighborhoods have downturns, and by the end of the 20th century, the building was boarded up. In 2006, a massive restoration of the exterior, and reconfiguration of the interior took place, headed by GM Architects, for Pacific Village, LLC.
The interior was gutted, and reconfigured for affordable housing. The exterior was not only repaired, it was restored, with copper trim put back where it had once been, and allowed to patinate. Other period and original details were also restored.
This cost much more than a standard affordable reno, reflected the care that went into saving one of our best buildings, and helped earn the developer and architects a 2007 Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce Brooklyn Building Award.
[Photos by Suzanne Spellen]