William Tubby is regarded as one of Brooklyn’s finest late 19th century architects. He is perhaps best known for his work for Charles Pratt, resulting in several Pratt Institute buildings, a magnificent home, and a country estate and finally, a mausoleum for Charles Pratt.
He was quite busy in the rest of Clinton Hill too, designing mansions, row houses, most still here, and the now-demolished Wallabout Market complex, which once stood near the Navy Yard. He had a very long and productive career, designing buildings across the tri-state area, many of which are landmarked today, and enduring reminders of a major talent.
Like his contemporary, Montrose Morris, William Tubby was very adept at turning his impressive social connections to his business advantage. First of all, a strong business relationship with Brooklyn’s richest man, Charles Pratt and the Pratt sons, probably opened more doors than anything else he could have done.
But Tubby was also quite active in Brooklyn’s social circles, where he and his wife, Clara, and children show up throughout their lifetimes, at parties, summer homes, weddings and events.
The Tubby’s were very active in activities involving art; supporting museums, donating artworks, and William was a founding member of the Rembrandt Club and the Durer Club, dedicated to educating young men in the importance and appreciation of the arts.
He was a member of the Brooklyn Guild Association, a teacher of architecture at his alma mater, the Brooklyn Polytechnic Instutute, and sat on several charity boards.
He was also a founding member, and the secretary of the Architecture Department of the Brooklyn Institute, an important organization begun in 1823, the forerunner of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn Children’s Museum and the Botanic Garden.
His membership in this organization not only put him at the table with some of the other well known and important Brooklyn architects, but also put him in the position to judge competitions for important commissions, and probably aided him in getting quite a few jobs, as well.
In the last decade of the 19th century, and on into the 20th, William Tubby designed homes in Park Slope, Clinton Hill, and Brooklyn Heights. His most important home in Park Slope was the William H. Childs home, at 53 Prospect Park West, the 1893 house built for the inventor and manufacturer of Bon Ami cleansing powder.
It is a unique Neo-Jacobean design, now home to the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture. He also designed a home for Child’s daughter, Mary, next door at 61 Prospect Park West, in 1910.
Other Slope houses include 234 Lincoln Place, 674 10th St and a Queen Anne group at 870-872 Carroll St. In the Heights, he designed 262-272 Hicks Street, the original Benjamin Moore factory on Front Street, and his own home, a Dutch Revival style house, reminiscent of the Wallabout Market, at 43 Willow Street.
In nearby Cobble Hill, he designed a group of flats buildings with storefronts at 194-200 Court Street, near Wyckoff.
William Tubby was equally at home designing for civic and commercial clients. He built the Bureau of Charities building on Schermerhorn St. in 1887, an extension for the Quaker Meeting Hall School, also on Schermerhorn St, downtown, in 1886, the Brooklyn Bank, which once stood at Fulton and Clinton, downtown, a landmarked police station for the 83rd Precinct, at 179 Wilson Street, in Bushwick (1894-95), and did a rehab of the Brooklyn Trust Building, at Clinton and Montague in 1889.
One of his most significant committee postings was as a member of the Architects’ Advisory Commission for the Brooklyn Carnegie Libraries. Under that commission, he designed five library buildings for the Brooklyn Public Library, including the landmarked branch at DeKalb Avenue in Bushwick.
William Tubby did not restrict his practice to Brooklyn. He took commissions in Manhattan, and was responsible for several commercial buildings in lower Manhattan, including a towering 10 story leather warehouse on Ferry and Gold Streets, and the American Thread Company building on West Broadway.
Built as the Wool Exchange Building in 1896, this building is best remembered as one of the first loft buildings to become popular in Tribeca, in the 1980’s. There are quite a few Tubby buildings on Long Island, especially in the Glen Cove area, due to the Tubby family’s summering at the Red Spring Colony for many years, as noted by both the NY Times and the Brooklyn Eagle.
The Pratt families also summered in Glen Cove, and Tubby designed their home on the large 800 acre estate. He designed the Nassau County Jail and Courthouse in Mineola, in 1900, as well as various estates and suburban houses.
William Tubby’s name also is prominent in Connecticut, where he retired to Greenwich in his later years. He was the architect of several churches, the Greenwich hospital and library, and several large estate homes, including Dunnellen Hall in Greenwich, for years the home of Harry and Leona Helmsley, which is still one of the most expensive estates on the market.
He also designed Waveney House, now a public venue belonging to the town of New Canaan, and Wexford Hall, built in 1929, in New Canaan, now also for sale.
All of them are classic English style manor houses, large and beautiful. See them, and other Tubby buildings on Flickr. After an extremely long career of 61 years, William Tubby died on May 9th, 1944.
He outlived most of his contemporaries, and saw architecture change radically from the forms he helped popularize at the end of the 1800’s; Romanesque and Renaissance Revival, Dutch, and Flemish inspired revivals, and Classical and Beaux Arts designs, to the Modernism growing before the advent of World War II.
What an amazing career, and how fortunate that so many of his buildings still remain for us to enjoy and use.