Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Last week we featured some of the great C.B.J. Snyder’s Brooklyn schools. There are a lot of them, and here’s one more great addition to the Brooklyn streetscape.

Name: Public School 124, Silas B. Dutcher School
Address: 515 4th Avenue
Cross Streets: 13th and 14th Street
Neighborhood: Park Slope
Year Built: 1899-1900
Architectural Style: Beaux-Arts
Landmarked: No

This beautiful Beaux-Arts-style elementary school is just one many built by C.B.J. Snyder, the Supervisor of School Buildings for the City of New York. It one of his earliest Brooklyn schools, planned a year after Brooklyn became part of Greater New York City in 1898.

As we posted last week, Snyder revolutionized school building with his H-shaped schools. This is not one of them; instead it’s a massive old-style rectangular school, built on a block-wide lot with lots of room around it for maximum use of windows on all four sides.

Snyder was well aware of the impact a handsome, well-built school had on a community. The 1893 Chicago World’s Exhibition had introduced the nation to the Beaux-Arts style — an ornate, classically inspired French Baroque style that lent itself well to public buildings of all kinds.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

No matter how big or small, excess stuff has to be stored somewhere. Before this great building became a self-storage facility, it stored armaments and supplies for the National Guard.

Name: Former Brooklyn Arsenal, now Extra Space self-storage
Address: 6301 2nd Avenue
Cross Streets: 63rd and 64th streets
Neighborhood: Sunset Park
Year Built: 1924-26
Architectural Style: Fortress
Architect: Sullivan W. Jones
Other works by architect: Alfred E. Smith Building in Albany, City Hall in Buffalo. Also armory in Hempstead, Long Island
Landmarked: No

The crenellated castle armories of the late 19th century were the inspiration for more-modern armory architects. The fortresses on many of our neighborhood streets were built for shock and awe, and that tradition carried through into the new century. But here, overlooking New York Bay, the inspiration came from another military installation.

This arsenal is next door to the U.S. Army Military Ocean Terminal, architect Cass Gilbert’s massive reinforced concrete staging area and warehouse for the military built in 1918. This building was designed to complement it.

Gilbert may have brought the “awe,” but this building provided the “shock.” After all, it was designed to be filled with guns, ammo and the armaments of war.

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It’s School Week here on Brownstoner. Stay tuned to check out more school-themed stories.

I was asked to pick my favorite school building for this series of school posts. Of course, I have to go with Boys High School. It’s a masterpiece. Filmmakers think so too — the school’s been used as a setting for at least two major productions.

Name: Boys High School
Address: 832 Marcy Avenue
Cross Streets: Putnam Avenue and Madison Street
Neighborhood: Bedford Stuyvesant
Year Built: 1891, with additions 1905-1910
Architectural Style: Richardsonian Romanesque Revival
Architect: James W. Naughton, additions by C.B.J. Snyder
Other works by architect: Girls High School (Bed Stuy), P.S. 9 Annex (Prospect Heights), P.S. 107 (Park Slope); Snyder: Erasmus High School (Flatbush); John Jay High School (Park Slope); for both, many, many others
Landmarked: Yes, individually landmarked (1975); National Register (1982)

Brooklyn, as an independent city, led the metropolitan area in public education. Educators had long felt that public schooling beyond elementary school was necessary for an educated populace and workforce.

In 1885, the first high school in New York City, Girls High School, opened nearby on Nostrand Avenue. Originally planned to hold both boys and girls, it was too small for both before the doors even opened. The boys had to wait until September of 1892, when this school was completed.

James W. Naughton, who was Superintendent of Buildings for the Board of Education of the City of Brooklyn (put that title on your door), held his office from 1879-98.

During that time, this Irish-born, Cooper Union–trained architect was the sole architect for more than 100 schools built during his tenure. He was active right at the peak of Brooklyn’s ascendency as one of America’s finest fast-growing cities.

A Majestic School Worthy of a City on the Rise

By the mid 1880s, the Romanesque Revival architecture style was seen as a fitting style of architecture for important civic, commercial and residential buildings in America.

The style had complex massing of shapes and textures, soaring arches and ornamental elements, all perfect for showing off in a spectacular way.

In the 1890s in Brooklyn, the fire headquarters, post office, Eagle Warehouse, Germania Club, Alhambra Apartments, Hulbert, Behr and Schieren houses, and many more were designed in the Romanesque Revival style. But the Boys High School would top them all.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Vinegar Hill is one of our oldest neighborhoods. It remains one of the best locations to see what working class life in pre–Civil War Brooklyn was like in the days of Walt Whitman.

Name: Storefront with upper apartments
Address: 50-54 Hudson Avenue
Cross Streets: Plymouth and Water Streets
Neighborhood: Vinegar Hill
Year Built: 1828-1831
Architectural Style: Greek Revival
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: Yes, part of Vinegar Hill Historic District (1997)

A store and more

Like most of the older buildings in Vinegar Hill, these three-story brick buildings have two floors of apartments over a storefront. They were all built in a simple Greek Revival style, with stone lintels and sills on the upper windows, and simple cornices. The names of the builders are lost to history.

These buildings have stood for almost 190 years in a city that changes rapidly, so it’s no wonder the storefronts are in varying degrees of original authenticity. 50 and 52 Hudson Avenue’s storefronts were last altered sometime after 1977.

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Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Before Dumbo teemed with tourists, residents and artists, it was one of the busiest industrial neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Large food companies like the Grand Union Tea Company were major contributors to jobs and commerce.

Name: Former Grand Union Tea Company, now offices and studios
Address: 68 Jay Street
Cross Streets: Water and Front Streets
Neighborhood: Dumbo
Year Built: 1915
Architectural Style: “Daylight factory” with transitional Queen Anne elements
Architect: William Higginson
Other works by architect: Industrial architecture in Greenpoint, Dumbo and Manhattan. In Dumbo, most of the Gair buildings, including 1 Main Street.
Landmarked: Yes, part of the Dumbo Historic District (2007)

A block-wide and -long warehouse for tea

Construction began on this massive warehouse in 1896, the same year that Frank, Cyrus and Charles Jones brought their Jones Brothers/Grand Union Tea Company to Brooklyn.

This part of the block-long, block-wide complex was the last to be built, out of modern steel frame construction and brick. It is a transitional example of a “daylight factory.”

Daylight factories were introduced in the 20th century. They mostly refer to the reinforced concrete factories of the day that allowed for more windows and natural light to flood the work spaces. This construction also allowed for fewer interior beams and more open spaces.

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Editor’s note: An updated version of this post can be viewed here.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Sears is one of the nation’s most recognizable store names. This landmarked building has been a shopping destination for Brooklynites for over 80 years.

Name: Sears, Roebuck & Company Department Store
Address: 2307 Beverley Road
Cross Streets: Corner of Bedford Avenue
Neighborhood: Flatbush
Year Built: 1932, addition added in 1940
Architectural Style: Late Art Deco
Architect: Nimmons, Carr & Wright, with Alton Craft
Other Buildings by Architect: NC & W — in Chicago, various Sears stores and private homes for Sears execs
Landmarked: Yes, individual landmark (2012)

Sears & Roebuck, Mail-Order Giant to the Nation

It’s hard to believe, but this store, which has always been a Sears, has been here for over 80 years. Just like its neighbor, the recently revived Kings Theatre located directly behind it, this Sears has been a Flatbush institution.

Sears started out in the 1890s as a mail-order catalog that sold a huge variety of goods to customers in rural areas who had little to no access to stores and shops. Its first retail store was built in 1925. Based in Chicago, Sears & Roebuck expanded all across the country.

Because of its dealings with Manhattan’s garment center, Sears was a presence in NYC long before its bricks and mortar stores were in place. When the company sought to expand its retail presence in the New York City area, Flatbush was seen as an ideal location.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

This is one of the oldest houses in Brooklyn Heights. Its place next door to the historic Plymouth Church also assured that a lot of history passed through these doors over the years.

Name: Wood-frame house
Address: 69 Orange Street
Cross Streets: Hicks and Henry streets
Neighborhood: Brooklyn Heights
Year Built: 1828
Architectural Style: Federal, with later Victorian add-ons and alterations
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: Yes, part of Brooklyn Heights Historic District (1965)

Almost Two Centuries of Architectural Changes

This Federal-style clapboard house has seen a lot of physical changes in its 187-year history. Sometime in the post–Civil War years, someone added another story to the house using a mansard roof.

There were also changes to the windows — which were lengthened — as well as the door and the railings. According to Mrs. Iago Gladston, who lived in the house in 1961, there was also a porch she had removed 24 years before when she and her husband moved in.

That porch would also have been a Victorian-era addition, but Mrs. Gladston didn’t like the way it jutted over the front steps. She was interviewed for a Long Island Historical Society article in 1961.

There was also a house next door, to the left. It was a similar clapboard house that can be seen in old photographs of Plymouth Church.

Editor’s note: An updated version of this post can be viewed here.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Downtown Brooklyn is full of wonderful old 19th century buildings of all kinds. It also has a small collection of more modern bank buildings, most of them built in the 1960s and ’70s. Here’s one of them.

Name: Former Equitable Federal Savings and Loan, now Capital One Bank
Address: 356 Fulton Street
Cross Streets: Corner of Red Hook Lane
Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
Year Built: 1967-1968
Architectural Style: Neo-Formalism (perhaps stretching it a bit)
Architect: Goldberg-Epstein Associates
Other works by architect: Lincoln Savings Bank in Gravesend, public housing
Landmarked: No

Downtown Brooklyn is layered with architectural history, making it one of Brooklyn’s more interesting neighborhoods. A single block can span the distance between the years before the Civil War up until the present.

This bank building is a bit of mid-20th century suburbia right in the heart of the city.

Mid-20th Century Neo-Formalism

Adolf Goldberg and his firm, Goldberg-Epstein Associates, built suburban banks like this, as well as more anonymous-looking housing developments and other buildings. Goldberg retired in 1967, so this is one of his last buildings.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

A local entrepreneur and developer built these buildings on Clinton Hill’s only commercial corridor, and then put his brother’s bank on the corner lot.

Name: Storefronts with flats above
Address: 410-418 Myrtle Avenue
Cross Streets: Clinton and Vanderbilt Avenues
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
Year Built: 1887-1888
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: George Walgrove
Other works by architect: 287-293 DeKalb Avenue, Clinton Hill; row houses in Manhattan; several buildings on Riker’s Island
Landmarked: No

A Commercial Hub

This set of storefront and apartment buildings was built on one of Clinton Hill’s busiest corners. The Queen Anne style of architecture was a mixture of materials, shapes and textures, and these buildings fit the bill.

The architect, George Walgrove, mixed brownstone, brick, pressed metal, and terra cotta, with arched Romanesque Revival windows, a nice corner turret and expansive windows on the ground floor commercial spaces.

Built for the Family Bank

John Englis was the son of a Greenpoint shipbuilder. His father’s company built many of the sailing ships that plied the China route. After his father’s death, he and his sons renamed the company John Englis & Sons. They produced some of the finest steam ships that sailed up and down the Hudson River.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Carriage houses and other service buildings were as important to the development of a neighborhood as the houses themselves. This is a particularly elegant example.

Name: Former carriage houses
Address:457 and 461 Vanderbilt Avenue
Cross Streets: Gates and Greene Avenues
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
Year Built: between 1880 and 1887
Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

Soaring Arches and Room for Horses, Too

These Clinton Hill carriage houses are among my favorite in the neighborhood. It’s too bad we know so little about who built or owned them. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out they were designed by one of the well-known architects working in the area. They are really good, especially for service buildings.

First of all, the overall brickwork here is first rate. Late 19th century Brooklyn had excellent bricklayers.

There’s some Rundbogenstil styling going on here — soaring round arches which are typical of this German progenitor of American Romanesque Revival styles. It’s almost ecclesiastical, the arches stretching three stories high, with two upper stories of windows.