Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Liebmann Brothers Building
Address: 466 Fulton Street
Cross Streets: Corner of Hoyt Street
Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
Year Built: 1888
Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival
Architect: William H. Beers
Other buildings by architect: 87 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights
Landmarked: No, but should be along with much of Fulton Street.
The story: I would have liked to have seen Fulton Street in the late 1800’s. There are still enough remnants from that time period to allow us to fill in many of the blanks, as well as some photographs, but it must have been a sight. So much of Brooklyn’s commercial and social history took place on this block, and this building is a reminder of what is lost. The Liebmann Brothers Building would have stood out in any age. It’s a classic late Victorian pile that would have had offices on the top floors, and retail space on the ground floor, perhaps also on the second floor. A photograph from 1905 shows just that, also dramatically showing how the modernizations of the last fifty years have destroyed most of the charm of the building. There was even stained glass in the transom windows on the third and fourth floor.
The Liebmann Brothers, Herman and Louis, were successful Brooklyn dry goods merchants, for a long time, in partnership with Frederick Loeser in one of Brooklyn’s most successful stores, Loeser’s. Their partnership broke up in 1887, and both would open new, large and successful establishments downtown. The Liebmann’s opened a huge store on Washington Street, and in 1888, had this office building constructed. It was to be part of a very large Liebmann complex of retail and office space with frontage on Fulton, extending along Hoyt, all the way back to Livingston. Unfortunately, they suddenly went bust in 1894, and those plans were never instituted.
The architect of this building, William H. Beers, was slated to be the architect of the larger complex. Beers is not a household name, but he was a successful architect, working out of an office in lower Manhattan. He’s the architect of record for several high end stables in the Heights, as well as some large stables on estates in Long Island. This may sound rather second rate, but the rich spend a great deal of money on their stables and carriage houses, and Beers was able to do some good work.
He’s also the architect of 87 Remsen Street, a large and impressive, five story Queen Anne brownstone that replaced an earlier building. The styling, materials and general feel of the building is reminiscent of 466 Fulton. It’s too bad most of that styling is now covered up, and gone. We really need to protect what’s left before it’s all gone, and not just on this building. GMAP