Building of the Day: 818 Flatbush Avenue

Today I’m reposting a favorite of mine, an Art Deco building in Flatbush that remains a mystery. Who designed this ornamental beauty? I still don’t know. Tomorrow’s post will be brand new. In the meantime, enjoy this gem again.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Commercial building
Address: 818 Flatbush Avenue
Cross Streets: Caton Avenue and Linden Boulevard
Neighborhood: Flatbush
Year Built: 1930’s
Architectural Style: Art Deco
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: Sometimes the most interesting buildings have no information available to us, on line, anyway. Such is the case with this really fine Art Deco commercial space. This part of Flatbush Avenue is near the commercial heart of Flatbush, the intersection of Flatbush and Church Avenues. The buildings here are a naturally evolving mixture of late 19th century Victorian, early 20th century Classical and Renaissance Revival, Art Deco and Modernist, on up to recent glass, concrete and mortar, late 20th century storefronts.

Flatbush in the 1930’s was a thriving middle-class neighborhood, and Flatbush Avenue has long been its busiest and most important commercial strip. It comes then, as no surprise that some really fine buildings were built here, all designed to house the stores and businesses that kept this area a one-stop shopping and entertainment area. This building has an advantageous corner location, and whatever was here originally surely took advantage of the ample light and space available.

I chose it as the BOTD because I love ornament, and the Art Deco period was the last hurrah for all out, knock your socks off, ornament, and this building delivers. It reminds me of the Chanin Building on 42nd Street, in Manhattan, whose ornament was designed by René Chambellan and Jacques L. Delamarre, in 1927 through 1929. Like the reliefs on the Chanin, this much more modest storefront has incised floral and geometric forms covering the surface, all rendered in white glazed terra-cotta tile. You can see the jig-saw puzzle joining of the pieces in the close-ups. Whoever did the designs on this building was very good. Perhaps Chambellan and Delamarre? There are similarities. More research needs to be done.

The building needs a good cleaning so that the details pop, and who knows, that may happen someday. It’s amazing that it survived as well as it did, but goes to show the resiliency and long lasting strength of terra-cotta. The stuff is almost invincible, another reason why I really love it. There are a lot of Deco buildings along Brooklyn’s commercial streets. Many of them have some classic Art Deco terra-cotta motifs on their facades, some in polychrome colors. But this building is special, a real gem, showing artistry of the finest kind. GMAP

818 Flatbush Ave, Flatbush, 2

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