Hasidic Williamsburg: Hipsters? No. Architectural eye candy? Yes.

Eye On Real Estate

July 23, 2014 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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This is the Williamsburg hipsters never see.

The streets south and west of Broadway that surround the Oosten condo site are predominantly populated by the Hasidic Jewish community — and lined with landmarks and other intriguing buildings, if you know where to look.

There’s also a significant swath of New York City Housing Authority developments, starting with the Berry Street-S. 9th Street complex, which is right across from the Wythe Avenue side of the Oosten site.

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Jonathan Williams Plaza, Independence Towers and the Taylor Street-Wythe Avenue Houses all are a few blocks away.

But back to the architectural eye candy.

The future occupants of the condos at 429 Kent Ave. will be able to hike north to see well-known visual delights in the rest of Williamsburg. Or they can soak up the subtle charms of the Hasidic section of South Williamsburg — which doesn’t draw many outsiders other than folks doing film shoots at the old New York State Armory at 355 Marcy Ave. (itself an awesome eyeful).

By the way, readers who decide to see the neighborhood’s marvelous buildings for themselves should skip the skimpy shirts and short shorts, as a matter of cultural courtesy.

Also by the way, many streets in this part of Williamsburg are named after the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

* The coolest school in Brooklyn — 125 Heyward St. — was designated a city landmark in 1981. This Second Empire-style red-brick beauty has a mansard roof and looks like a set for a Tim Burton movie.

It was Public School 71K back when it was built in 1888-1889.

Brooklyn was a city unto itself, with its own school system. Public School 71K’s architect was James Naughton, who was the Brooklyn Board of Education’s Superintendent of Buildings — and as such, designed all the schools in Brooklyn for nearly 20 years.

The United Talmudical Academy has owned the eye-catching property since 1969, city Finance Department records indicate.

* A century ago, the distinctive building next door at 87-105 Heyward St., the white-brick, red-trimmed one with a smokestack, was the home of Shults Baking Co., according to a 1913 Register of Factories we found online.

It has belonged since 1978 to Congregation Zemach David of New Square, Finance Department records indicate.

* Much-admired late 19th and early 20th Century architect Montrose Morris designed the apartment house at 109 S. 9th St. Architectural historian Suzanne Spellen, who uses the pen name Montrose Morris, did the research and figured this out.

He designed the Queen Anne-style building in 1887, and construction was completed in 1890, she wrote in a “Building of the Day” posting on Brownstoner.

It has belonged to 109 South Street Corporation since 1982, Finance Department records indicate.

* The mansion with the elaborately decorated facade at 559 Bedford Ave. is quite the eye-pleaser.

It was built in 1886 for the Smith family, whose business, Smith Gray & Co., was Brooklyn’s biggest clothing manufacturer, according to a Brownstoner “Building of the Day” posting by (the writer) Montrose Morris.

The property on the corner of Rodney Street has belonged to Congregation Arugath Habosem since 1943, a mortgage in Finance Department records indicates.

* Middlebrooke Lancaster Inc. is a corporate name lost to the ages, but it lives on in a nostalgia-inducing advertisement painted on the side of 304 Hewes St.

The company’s ad for Nutrine Beauty Preparations is fading on the whitewashed brick warehouse, but still legible. The place has an air of mystery that makes it easy to love.

It was purchased in 1977 by A to Z Realty Corp., a company Zoltan Rosenwasser and Moishe Rosenwasser are involved with, according to mortgage documents filed with the Finance Department.

* Where was Long Island Business College?

We didn’t know either — until we discovered handsome 143 S. 8th St. The combination Romanesque Revival-Second Empire brick building was designated a city landmark in September 2013.

Designed by William Gaylor and built in 1891-1892, it hosted the lectures of the Brooklyn Philosophical Association, with headliners like anarchist Emma Goldman and labor leader Eugene Debs, according to the city Landmarks Preservation Commission’s designation report.

In the 1940s it became the Beth Jacob Teachers Seminary of America — which was “a magnet for hundreds of young Holocaust survivors who sought to further their studies” after World War II, the designation report notes. It is now a co-op apartment building, Finance Department records indicate.

* The experts call it Ruskinian Gothic. We call it gorgeous, in a classy, restrained sort of way, with warm-red brick and reflective windows that take on a glow in late afternoon if the light is right.

Originally, 274 Keap St. was Temple Beth Elohim, built by one of Brooklyn’s first Jewish congregations in 1876.

The congregation left long ago. Yeshiva Kehilath Yakov bought the property in 1983, city Finance Department records indicate.

* The mammoth manufacturing building at 762 Wythe Ave. is a real beauty, made of red brick with subtle bands of ornamentation running just below the roofline.

The Central United Talmudical Academy bought the empty six-story, circa-1910 building for $16.5 million in 2007 to turn it into a school, a colleague at the Brooklyn Eagle reported back then.

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