Building of the Day: 132 Crown Street

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: The Pasadena Apartments
Address: 132 Crown Street
Cross Streets: Bedford and Rogers Avenues
Neighborhood: Crown Heights South
Year Built: around 1930
Architectural Style: Southwestern/Mediterranean inspired Deco
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: There are a lot of these type buildings in Brooklyn, and New York City in general: enormous middle-class apartment buildings built in the late 1920’s, early 1930’s. They were designed to house the large number of middle-class folk who made Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, and upper Manhattan, home; the children and grandchildren of immigrants who were well on their way in the achievement of the good life. It’s really rather fascinating, as a social phenomenon – architecture as social signpost.

Of course some of these buildings are better than others, but I have a fondness for the ones that tried to invoke the exotic places that most of these people would never visit, except in the movies. These buildings also heavily referenced the styles popular in a more affluent population, so you see half- timbered trimmed Tudor or Medieval style apartment buildings appearing at the same time suburban homes referenced the same styles, in the story book cottages and Banker’s Tudors of nearby suburbs.

Some architects also took their inspiration from the newly popular Mediterranean and Southwestern styles of architecture popular on the West Coast, also trickling into the popular suburban vernacular. This was an excuse for some very inventive terra-cotta tile work, or stucco-clad water towers and facades. Tile roofs, golden stucco, and classic Spanish and Italian building shapes appear in buildings holding as many people as an entire Mediterranean village.

The Pasadena is one of those apartment buildings emulating the good life of California. With a name like “Pasadena”, how could you not? It’s got some Rundbogenstil inspired arching going on, along with the Mediterranean styling, but it’s basically an Art Deco era apartment building on steroids, with a vague hint of “ye olde California”. This building has many wings, and currently has 123 units. Big old buildings like this often had the “Classic Six” arrangement, several bedrooms, a full dining room, living room, full bath, large foyer, and a maid’s room and bathroom off the kitchen.

For today’s space starved New Yorkers, apartment buildings like this, in the right place, are gold. Sadly, too many in now poorer neighborhoods are cut up mercilessly to provide more apartments, losing not only detail, but livability. I know little about this building, but have always enjoyed walking by. The arched entryway is so inviting. Once it said, “Welcome to the good life, strivers. You have arrived.” GMAP

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