Past and Present: 110 Livingston Street

Today we begin a new Friday feature showcasing the wealth of old photographs that exist of Brooklyn, showing how our fair city has changed over the years. Suggestions are always welcome.

A look at the ever changing streetscape of Brooklyn

Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
Address: 110 Livingston Street, corner of Boerum Place
Past: Demonstration Building – Brooklyn Union Gas Company, Architect and Year: Unknown
Present: 110 Livingston Condominiums, formerly : NY City Board of Education, originally: Elks Club Headquarters. Architect: McKim, Mead & White. Year: 1926

The story: In 1908, when the photo on the left was taken, gas appliances such as kitchen stoves and refrigeration units were coming into their own, but not everyone know how to use them, and only the wealthy owned them. This building, whose official address was 108-112 Livingston St., was a showroom and demonstration room, where products could be seen, and classes held where their use was demonstrated. Other photos in this series show stoves being demonstrated, as well as showrooms with washing machines, early refrigerators, hot water heaters, pressing machines, and all the modern conveniences we still depend on. The last photo in this series was taken in 1913. In 1914, Brooklyn Union Gas moved into its new and very large headquarters to 180 Remsen St, in a building designed by Frank Freeman.

By the time MM&W designed the Elks Club, their famous named founders were dead or retired, and this building, while a fine structure, is not usually listed in their pantheon of masterpieces. It was built for the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, a wealthy and influential society, who had a large HQ with meeting spaces, 200 dorm rooms, a ballroom, Turkish bath, and bowling alleys, a swimming pool, and other amenities. In 1939, it was taken over as HQ for the NYC Board of Ed, becoming by the end of the 20th century, the symbol of a failing school system. The city sold it to Two Trees in 2003, for development into luxury condos. They enlisted architects Beyer Blinder Belle, for many, the MM&W of today, for the rooftop addition and conversion. There are still gas stoves here, but much fancier and more expensive than the staff of the Brooklyn Union Gas Demonstration Building could have ever imagined.

110-Liv-2.jpg
(Photo: Museum of the City of New York, 1908)

110-Liv-3.jpg
(Photo: Championship Windows, 2007)

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