Building of the Day: 45 Monroe Place

Photo: appad.org


(Photo: Joseph A. on Flickr)

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Appellate Division, NY State Supreme Court, Second Judicial Department
Address: 45 Monroe Place
Cross Streets: Corner Pierrepont Street
Neighborhood: Brooklyn Heights
Year Built: 1936-1938
Architectural Style: Classical Revival
Architect: Slee & Bryson
Other buildings by architect: Albemarle-Kennmore Terrace houses, houses in Lefferts Manor, Crown Heights North and South, Victorian Flatbush and Park Slope.
Landmarked: Yes, part of Brooklyn Heights HD (1965)

The story: I would imagine for non-Brooklynites, being told to report to the Appellate Court in the Heights is tantamount to the ends of the earth. “Monroe and Peer-what?” And at first glance, you have to wonder why a courthouse was placed here, in the middle of a residential neighborhood. A casual walk down in this area takes you past the mansions built for the rich, the fine apartment buildings, and elegant churches. Not another courthouse in sight. Yet, it works. First of all, it gets commercial near here, so that helps the transition. Secondly, Slee & Bryson designed such an elegant, yet austere building, who can possibly hate it?

This duo is known primarily for their residential design, with their trademark Colonial Revival houses, both row and free-standing, appearing in most of our later, turn of the 20th century and beyond, developing neighborhoods. These houses are mostly red brick, or more suburban Colonial clapboard. This foray into the very Classical Greco-Roman milieu comes quite late in their careers, and may be the last building they designed.

The building was begun in 1936, replacing a church that stood on that corner, and is limestone clad, with a granite base. It has Doric columns and other Classical details, but they are all seen through a Great Depression-era, Art Deco sensibility. The bronze doorway and grillwork are the most outward manifestations of that union. Inside, the courtrooms, lobby and corridors also show that a marriage of Deco simplicity and Classic grandeur is possible, in the hands of extremely good architects. The building’s rooms include a two story courtroom, with a gold leafed coffered ceiling, clerk’s office, admin offices, a lawyer’s lounge, nine Justice’s chambers, law library, consultation room, and rest rooms. The building cost a $1.5 million bucks, and I think the city got its money’s worth.

The Second Division of the Appellate Court serves 10 of New York’s counties, making this the busiest Appellate Court in the US. The Appellate Court was established in New York State in 1896, to hear appeals from the NYS Supreme Court, as well as other specialized courts, such as Family, County, Claims and Surrogate’s Court. Decisions of this court can themselves be appealed in the State’s highest court, the New York Court of Appeals. When this building was opened, in 1938, it housed 8 Justices and 63 staff members. Today, 21 Justices and 199 staff members are associated with the court. Most of the Justices now have their principal chambers in their own home counties, leaving the Presiding Justice and two Associate Justices with their principal chambers still in this building. GMAP

Photo: appad.org

Original rendering of building, from NYS Courts website

Photo: Googlemaps

Photo: nyc.gov

Interior, main courtroom. Photo: 100 year anniversary of the Appellate Court.

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