Tag Archives: 1892

Brooklyn Fire Department Headquarters

Brooklyn Fire Department Headquarters, “architecturally one of the finest buildings in Brooklyn,” has been restored to its 1892 magnificence. Amazingly, the downtown landmark was renovated without displacing tenants – and all 18 units of the formerly city-owned building were retained as “affordable housing.”

In his “Streetscapes” column, Christopher Gray notes that this building was Brooklyn’s answer to Manhattan’s Fire Department Headquarters (now the home of Engine 39/Ladder 16). After the City of Brooklyn became part of New York City in 1898, the headquarters functions shifted to Manhattan. The fire department used the building into the 1970s, then the city leased it to Polytechnic University. In 1989 the city converted the building to 18 apartments for low-income and senior residents.

After years of decay, the city launched a complex rehabilitation plan in 2013. As reported in The Brownstoner, the rehab involved The Pratt Area Community Council (PACC) as the developer, with financing from the City of New York (HPD), the Community Preservation Corp (CPC), and LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation). The project also received funding though Historic Preservation Tax Credits, and a grant through the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. Nomad Architecture was the project architect, and the Historic Preservation Consultant was Thomas A. Fenniman, Architect. MDG Design & Construction was the development partner and the contractor.

The arched doorway no longer admits fire trucks, and the legend “FIRE HEAD-QUARTERS” has been replaced by terra cotta scrollwork. Otherwise, welcome back to 1892 and the City of Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Fire Department Headquarters Vital Statistics
Brooklyn Fire Department Headquarters Recommended Reading

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Church of St. Francis of Assisi

The Church of St. Francis of Assisi is a colorfully ornate example of Gothic Revival – more colorful than what we’re accustomed to in sacred architecture. The mosaics on the outside are just a hint of what you’ll find inside – the upper church contains what was once said to be the largest mosaic in the United States, “The Glorification of the Mother of Jesus” (1925).

The church has a colorful history, too. It was created as the result of a dispute between the Bishop of New York and trustees of the nearby church St. John the Baptist. The pastor, Father Zachary Kunz, petitioned the Bishop to open a new church, and St. Francis of Assisi was the result.

Alas, the church became a “parish without parishioners” as working class residents moved out of the neighborhood in the late 1800s-early 1900s. That’s the period of time when the district became known as “The Tenderloin.” The Franciscan Friars who ran the church began ministering to people who worked, rather than lived, in the neighborhood. This meant celebrating Mass throughout the day and night, among other things. Of more recent historical note, Fr. Mychal Judge, O.F.M., a chaplain of the New York Fire Department, died at the World Trade Center South Tower on Sept. 11, 2001. Father Mychal became the first officially recorded fatality following the terrorist attack.

Church of St. Francis of Assisi Vital Statistics
  • Location: 135 W 31st Street
  • Year completed: 1892
  • Architect: Henry Erhardt
  • Style: Gothic Revival
Church of St. Francis of Assisi Suggested Reading

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Amidon is an attractive seven-story Renaissance Revival apartment building with finely detailed yellow-orange roman brick – ambitious for its time and neighborhood – now enlivened by a sculptor in residence.

The building is part of the newly (June 2012) expanded Riverside-West End Historic District. Most of the Amidon’s facade is original – historic, in preservation-speak – except that the storefronts have been replaced and the cornice was removed. And oh, the whimsical grotesques that flank the main entry were sculpted by G. Augustine Lynas, an Amidon resident.

(Mr. Lynas has other work in the neighborhood – an elaborate sandbox, cast in sand-colored concrete, is the centerpiece of a children’s playground in Riverside Park, between W 82nd and W 83rd Streets. You can see more at www.SandSong.com.)

Amidon Vital Statistics
Amidon Recommended Reading

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McIntyre Building

McIntyre Building is one of New York’s quirky oddities. For starters, people can’t agree on its architectural style, because architect Robert H. Robertson mixed several styles in the design. People don’t always agree on the building’s name – it was built by Ewen McIntyre, but the lobby mosaic spells it “Mac Intyre” – and the typo is how many refer to 874 Broadway. The owner was a druggist, but he never used the building – the ground floor was occupied by a now-defunct bank.

Over the years, occupants sometimes blurred the lines. In the ’60s, people started to live in the building – though it didn’t have a residential occupancy permit. A seventh-floor nightclub, Cobra Club, operated illegally in the ’70s. The club’s trademark snakes reportedly escaped the glass terrariums from time to time, and live snakes were reported on the loose for years after. It’s currently a co-op – and one that’s spent big bucks to preserve the McIntyre Building’s unique style. The residents even paid to restore century-old wooden windows rather than replace them with modern metal sashes.

McIntyre Building Vital Statistics
McIntyre Building Recommended Reading

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PS 1

PS 1, originally First Ward School, was built in 1892 when Long Island City was actually an independent city. The building’s 35 classrooms were supplemented with a new wing in 1905, which added 21 classrooms. New York City still owns the building.

The square tower at the building’s southwest corner originally had a clock and bell. The school closed in 1962; in 1978 the NYC Institute of Contemporary Art reopened the building as “Project Studios One” gallery and studio space. The Museum of Modern Art took over the museum (via merger) in 2000. MoMA appended a cast concrete entrance building to the site’s northeast corner in 2011.

The restored red brick and terra cotta structure is a joy to look at, but the concrete addition seems to shout, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

PS 1 Vital Statistics
PS 1 Recommended Reading

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295 Park Avenue South

295 Park Avenue South was built in 1892 as the home of the New York Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children. The terra cotta children seen at the seventh floor are modeled after those designed by Andrea Della Robbia at the Ospedale degli Innocenti in Florence, according to Gramercy Neighborhood Associates.

The building was converted to rental apartments in 1982, and is now known as Park 23 (for its East 23rd Street location).

If every building has a story, this one is about Mary Ellen McCormack. The 10-year-old child, who was whipped daily for no apparent reason and dressed in rags, attracted the attention of a social worker. At the time, no city agency could help. In desperation the social worker reached out to the founder of the ASPCA, who enlisted a lawyer… Long story short, the abusive mother was found guilty of assault and battery, Mary found a good home, and the NY Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was born. But you should read the full story.

295 Park Avenue South Vital Statistics
Recommended Reading

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