Past and Present: 97 Columbia Heights

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    A Look at Brooklyn, then and now.

    The Hotel Margaret stood majestically on the corner of Columbia Heights and Orange Streets in Brooklyn Heights. Designed in 1889 by Frank Freeman, one of Brooklyn’s best architects, in his signature Romanesque Revival style. It was a residential, as well as transient hotel, built by coffee magnate, John Arbuckle, and named after his sister, Margaret. For many years it was Brooklyn’s tallest building, offering to guests facing the river, fabulous views of Manhattan and the bay, and from the inland side, the vista of the growing city of Brooklyn and beyond. The Margaret could be seen from miles away, and was a local landmark. Freeman designed the building in polychrome shades of stone, adding to the uniqueness of the hotel. Famous tenants and guests include H.G. Wells, who was a frequent guest when in New York, and Betty Smith, who wrote A Tree Grows in Brooklyn while living here. In 1980, the building was being renovated into condos, and was almost complete, when it caught fire and was totally lost. Many people still remember the huge 5 alarm conflagration, on a cold winter night. The Jehovah’s Witnesses bought the property and built this building in 1987. Its design was meant to be an homage to the original hotel, and after some controversy, they were able to build it the same height as the original. Today it is called the Margaret Apartments, and is a Jehovah’s Witness residence.

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    (Photo: Property Shark)

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