Building of the Day: 43 Herbert Street

1983 Photo: Municipal Archives

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Former 19th Precinct police station and stables, now condos
Address: 43 Herbert Street
Cross Streets: Meeker Avenue and Humboldt Street
Neighborhood: Greenpoint
Year Built: 1891-1892
Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival
Architect: George Ingram
Other Work by Architect: Police precincts, including Classon Ave, in Clinton Hill, Washington Ave, Crown Heights North, Liberty Ave, East New York, Vernon Avenue, Bedford Stuyvesant, as well as several other which have been demolished. He is also listed as architect of record for the 18th Precinct house on 4th Ave, in Sunset Park, although credit is given to Emile Gruwé, by the LPC.
Landmarked: Yes, individual landmark (1993)

The story: George Ingram gave late 19th century police precincts a gravitas and presence they had not had until that time, and in doing so, put his mark on the face of Brooklyn. His fortress-like precincts joined the other Romanesque Revival style public buildings being erected at that time, making Brooklyn a city of massive, and distinctive buildings, in their own way, quite unlike Manhattan, helping to give the city its own identity.

Ingram was a civil engineer, not an architect, and began his Brooklyn career as a surveyor, and then joined the Department of City Works as an assistant engineer in 1886. It was his job to prepare plans and specs for fire houses, police stations, police courts, public wharves, bridges and bulkheads, as well as alterations and repairs to city buildings. Somewhere in there, he found time to design his first two police precincts in 1887-88, setting up the model for the rest of his precinct buildings, which came two years later, and more after that.

After 1890, he left the City Department and set up his office in the National City Bank Building on Fulton Street, downtown. He still worked as the designer of precincts, with four more coming to fruition after he had left city service. Since he was not a trained architect, he collaborated with them in order to get the details right, and more than likely, that is why there is some confusion as to who actually designed the Sunset Park Police Precinct, Ingram or architect Emile Gruwé. Both probably worked on it, but the design was registered under his name with the Buildings Department.

All of Ingram’s police stations are on large corner lots, prominently placed in their communities. From the very forbidding look of the precinct when it was in use, see the Municipal Archives photo below. This was exactly the effect he, and the police wanted. He followed the same general formula for them as well, with different functions within the complex delineated by different buildings or rooms within the buildings. His precincts have separate stables, which are attached to the main building by an annex which connected it to the main building. Inside this center building was the sergeant’s desk, and main office, with interview rooms and offices above and on this main floor. A separate wing held the 10 cell block, with a lodging room above.

The Herbert Street station is exceptionally fine, and is the best preserved, on the exterior, anyway, of the Ingram stations. The Clinton Hill station is still in use, but the Crown Heights station is not a working precinct house, but home to undercover units. The Liberty Avenue station is a church, now closed and falling down, as is the Sunset Park site. Vernon Avenue in Bed Stuy is now housing, as is this. It’s a good adaptive use for a fine building, and this building seems to divide well into apartments. Having the apartment in the old stables looks great. GMAP

(Photo: Christopher Bride for PropertyShark)

1983 Photo: Municipal Archives

1983 Photo: Municipal Archives

What's Happening