Building of the Day: 70 Chauncey Street

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Fulton Park Comfort Station
Address: 70 Chauncey Street
Cross Streets: Backs onto Stuyvesant between Chauncey and Fulton Streets
Neighborhood: Stuyvesant Heights
Year Built: 1910
Architectural Style: Classical/Renaissance Revival
Architect: Frank Helmle of Helmle & Huberty
Other Work by Architect: Boathouse and Tennis house, Prospect Park; Fire Communication Station, behind Botanical Garden; Comfort Station, McGolrick Park, Greenpoint; Bossert Hotel and many other churches, office buildings, banks and homes.
Landmarked: No

The story: Fulton Park is one of Brooklyn’s most attractive small parks, a tiny slice of green with the beauty of Stuyvesant Heights on one side and Boys and Girls High School on the other. Those arriving in the neighborhood by subway have the pleasure of climbing the station stairs to emerge right in the park. For those who live in the area, walking through the park is one of those small pleasures that ends or begins one’s daily commute. It’s hard to believe that when the park was proposed in the 1890s, the city had to practically force it on the residents.

The parkland was a commercial area with stables, coal depots and other small businesses in wooden framed buildings and was seized through eminent domain. The neighborhood residents didn’t want the park because they didn’t want to pay for it — the city was demanding a stipend from every nearby homeowner to pay for upkeep. That idea didn’t last long. Lots were soon cleared, trees planted, paths and plantings laid, and the park opened in 1904.

The park was by no means complete when it opened — the comfort station wasn’t finished until 1910. It was designed by Frank Helmle of Helmle & Huberty. He was trained at Cooper Union and at the Architectural wing of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Science. He then worked for McKim, Mead & White for five years. It was probably there that he developed his love for classical design.

In 1902 he was appointed the Superintendent of Public Buildings in Brooklyn. Through this appointment he designed the Boathouse and Tennis House in Prospect Park as well as the comfort station here and in McGolrick Park in Greenpoint. That position also gave him other juicy commissions including the design of 42 firehouses throughout New York City and the Fire Communication Building, now a landmark, located at the southern end of the Botanical Gardens.

This building is classic Helmle. In ways it resembles parts of each of his Parks buildings, with his signature use of light-colored brick in herringbone and diamond patterns. He incorporates classical columns and a Mediterranean tile roof, which he used in the McGolrick Park shelter, the boathouse and the communications building. It’s a classy little building, and has recently been restored as part of the Parks Department’s upgrade to this loveley park. GMAP

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