Building of the Day: 820 Flatbush Avenue

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Commercial/office building
Address: 820 Flatbush Avenue
Cross Streets: Caton and Church Avenues
Neighborhood: Flatbush
Year Built: 1898
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: It’s unfortunate that far too often, the commercial corridors of Brooklyn seem to be so disproportionately forgotten when it comes to their architecture, some of which is quite fine. Perhaps it’s because businesses and buildings alike, changed, began and ended on these streets, with frequent tear-downs and rebuilding, so much so, that record keeping, which seems to have been a challenge here in the first place, just wasn’t kept up. Of all the buildings I’ve written about in this column, I’ve had the hardest time finding information on commercial buildings. (I should probably amend that to say that the information may be available, but it’s not on line.)Here’s another example.

While walking down Flatbush one day, this quite nice Renaissance Revival palazzo caught my attention. It’s got fine lines, with very Venetian-style arched windows on the top floor, which must have been quite stunning from the inside, when the round windows and the transoms weren’t covered up. The columns splitting the two interior windows within the arches are still very striking, and the building has great white glazed terra-cotta brickwork, the bricks within the arches arranged in a parquet floor-like basket-weave pattern.

The greater double arched design continues the length of the building, with a much simpler second floor. What the original ground floor commercial space looked like is forever lost. The building also has a fine cornice and interesting arched parapet, which is consistent with the Venetian theme. Topping it off is a single large cartouche in the center of the building with the date – 1898.

I wasn’t able to find out who built it, or if it was built for a specific business, but by 1908, it was home to a fast growing Flatbush real estate company called Star and Crescent Realty Company. They began somewhere around 1905 in an office down the street at 801 Flatbush. Two years later, they had spread to 810, then 819, and then 820 Flatbush.

They specialized in private homes in Flatbush, selling the very popular single family homes in nearby Ditmas Park, Midwood, Caton Park, and other suburban Flatbush neighborhoods. They also sold undeveloped lots and property further out on Long Island. Business must have been very, very good. Given the traditional iconography of the Star and Crescent, I wonder if that had any religious or cultural meaning to the owners of the company. More research is needed there. This building stylistically complements the name. They advertised in the NY Tribune, the NY Sun, the Real Estate Record and Builder’s Guide, and of course, the Brooklyn Eagle.

In the 1980’s, when the tax photo was taken, the ground floor was home to a restaurant. Today, the building is home to a dental practice, medical office, driving school, and optician. In spite of all the conflicting signage, the building holds its own here on busy Flatbush Avenue, and is still able to catch the eye of passersby. GMAP

Photo: Nicholas Strini for Property Shark, 2007

Photo: early 1980's tax photo, via Property Shark

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