Building of the Day: 1521 East New York Avenue in Brownsville

1904 map. NY Public Library

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Former National Surgical Stores, now boarded up
Address: 1521 East New York Avenue
Cross Streets: Rockaway Avenue and Prospect Place
Neighborhood: Brownsville
Year Built: Around 1925
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: To me, there is not much sadder than unrealized potential. That goes not only for people, but for neighborhoods and the buildings in them. When the enthusiastic and forward thinking people who settled in the part of Brownsville, near the Crown Heights border, at the turn of the 20th century, they thought their homes and businesses would last the ages. The city built handsome civic buildings, like the 65th Precinct, just up the block from here, and East New York Avenue was developed as a fine commercial and residential thoroughfare, worthy of its proximity to the famous Eastern Parkway, only a block away.

One of the growing companies to build a factory and headquarters here was the New York Truss and Instrument Company. They manufactured and sold orthopedic medical aids such as elastic hosiery, braces, trusses and arch supports. They first worked out of a wood-framed building with a large wagon shed angled on the Prospect Place side of the building. That building would be replaced by this rather impressive structure, which still has the angled shipping entrance on Prospect.

From what little records that are available on line, it seems that the building was built sometime around 1925, the same time the name of the company changed to the National Surgical Stores. Their new building was still their factory and shipping location, but also held a showroom and retail store. I would imagine, considering their product line, that the wholesale department would be on the second floor, in front of a marvelous arched window, not causing a retail customer to need additional products just to get upstairs.

The NSS also had an office at 1276 Broadway, on the corner of Lexington Avenue, not really all that far from here. Records on the company are not forthcoming on line, so I wonder how long they were here. This is really a fine building. It would have had a two story divided window underneath that great archway. The cartouche in the keystone has the company’s initials on it. The building is not overly ornamented, but who needs to gild the lily with that window? There is plenty of room in the rest of the building for the rest of the company operations; it’s really much larger than it looks – 4,626 square feet.

Brownsville did not do well in the latter part of the 20th century, and most of its industry left along with everything else, especially when the city crowded acres upon acres of land with housing project towers. Even the police precinct closed, abandoned for more urban fortress-like digs. According to city records, this building was owned by the Ortiz Funeral Home for a while, and they were the sellers to an LLC in 2010.

But whenever Ortiz owned it, it was a long time ago. The building has been thoroughly sealed since the early 1980s, as evidenced by tax photos. Someone is sitting on it, waiting for better days. The way Brooklyn real estate is going; those days will be here sooner than anyone thinks. I wonder what will happen to it? I wonder what will happen to all of the people here now. There’s not going to be anywhere to go. GMAP

Thanks to Matthew S. Kiernan for much of the information herein. Above photo: Google Maps

1904 map. NY Public Library

1904 map. NY Public Library

1915 Ad in the New York Daily Call.

1915 ad in the New York Daily Call

1980s tax photo. NY Municipal Archives

1980s tax photo. New York City Municipal Archives

Photo: Googlemaps

Photo: Google Maps

Close-up of cartouche. Googlemaps

Close-up of cartouche. Google Maps

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