Williamsburg

Where’s Waldo? Williamsburg landmarks you should find

Eye on Real Estate

September 14, 2016 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
There's so much to see on the streets of Williamsburg — including fashion shoots — that you can get distracted when you're looking for landmarks. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan

Hipsters. Hasidim. Hispanics.

With so much to keep track of on the streets of vividly diverse Williamsburg, some of the landmarks in the waterfront neighborhood might have escaped your notice.

It’s a bit like walking through a picture in a “Where’s Waldo?” book. The historic buildings are there, but you must look carefully to find them.

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Of course there is one Williamsburg landmark that most Brooklynites know on sight: The Domino Sugar Refinery. Cyclists and subway commuters see the factory with the tall smokestack, perched along the shoreline, as they cross the Williamsburg Bridge. Riders on East River Ferry boats that pass Billyburg also get an eyeful of the refinery at 292-314 Kent Ave.  

The 1880s-vintage American round-arch style building is the centerpiece of a mixed-use mega-development Two Trees Management is building.

The Walentas family’s company plans to affix a yellow neon “Domino” sign to the refinery, which will make it even more eye-catching. The iconic sign, which stood nearby atop a non-landmarked, now-demolished building, is stored for safekeeping during construction.

But what about F.J. Berlenbach House? Or Kings County Savings Bank? Do you know where these designated city landmarks are located?

Here’s a list of some interesting ones. The next time you’re in line, waiting for a cashier to ring up your purchases at the new Whole Foods at 238 Bedford Ave., you can plan out a landmarks-focused walk around the neighborhood.


* F.J. Berlenbach House: This Queen Anne-style frame rowhouse, built in 1887, is at 174 Meserole St. The architect was F.J. Berlenbach Jr. The builder was his father, Franz J. Berlenbach, who was a carpenter.

What makes this house special is the ornamental wood carving that covers the front of it — including a face with a fanciful beard and mustache made of leaves just below the roof of the building.

This the “Green Man,” an embodiment of nature used as ornamentation on buildings dating back to ancient Rome, architectural historian Suzanne Spellen explains in Brownstoner.com stories. Various versions of the Green Man appear on buildings in numerous Brooklyn neighborhoods.

The Meserole Street multi-family house currently belongs to Raymond Gonzalez and Eddie Gonzalez, city Finance Department records indicate.

* Public School 71K: This Second Empire-style school at 125 Heyward St. was constructed in 1888-1889, when Brooklyn was a city unto itself.

The eye-catching red brick building, which has a mansard roof, now belongs to the United Talmudical Academy, Finance Department records show.

* Former Colored School Number 3: This Romanesque Revival brick building at 270 Union Ave. is a landmarked reminder of Brooklyn public-school segregation during the 19th Century. Built in 1879-1881, it was renamed Public School 69 in 1887.

In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, the New York City Board of Education gave up ownership of the school building, the city Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC ) designation report about the school building says. It was used by the Civil Works Administration, a federal program that created public works projects to employ unskilled laborers.

The City of New York sold the school building at auction to Faye Industries Corp. for $10,600 in 1982, Finance Department records indicate. James O. Clark and Linda S. Clark bought the building from Faye Industries Corp. for $17,500 in 1983, Finance Department records also show.

He’s an artist, known for his neon sculptures.

A 1998 New York Times story recounts the work the couple did to turn the building into a livable home plus art studio. It had no water or heat and needed structural repairs.

* Long Island Business College: This Romanesque Revival-Second Empire co-op apartment building at 143 S. 8th St. is a delectable piece of 1890s-vintage architectural eye candy.

The building began its existence as a college that trained men and women for clerical jobs in banks, insurance agencies and industrial businesses. One of its students, John Hylan, was later the mayor of New York City, a Landmarks Preservation Commission designation report about the building notes.

After World War II, as Beth Jacob Teachers Seminary of America, it was “a magnet for hundreds of young Holocaust survivors who sought to further their studies,” the designation report says.

* Smith, Gray & Company Building: You’ve passed this cast-iron-fronted building at 103 Broadway on the way to lunch at restaurant Marlow & Sons, which is nearby.

The slender Second Empire-style Smith, Gray & Company Building, which has distinctive storefront windows, was constructed in 1870. This business was a children’s clothing manufacturer of national importance in the 19th Century.

Used as an apartment building in recent years, 103 Broadway is now for sale. The asking price is $8.5 million and Chris Varjan of Venture Capital Properties is the listing broker, a Trulia.com posting indicates. There are four floor-through lofts above the ground-floor retail space.

The current owner, an LLC with Martin Mazzoni as an authorized signatory, bought the building for $3.7 million in 2012, Finance Department records show.

* Kings County Savings Bank: For a long time it wasn’t possible to see much of 135 Broadway’s exterior. It was covered with a construction shed. Now it’s looking good.

The French Second Empire-style bank, which has a mansard roof, was one of the first properties in New York City to be designated as a landmark. (That was in 1966.)

Today it serves as the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center, AKA the WAH Center. “Wah” is a Japanese word that means “peace” or “harmony” or “unity,” the nonprofit’s website notes.

The building belongs to the Yuko Nii Foundation, Finance Department records show. Nii, an artist and philanthropist, is the founder of the WAH Center.   

* Williamsburgh Savings Bank: We couldn’t resist including the domed Classical Revival-style bank at 175 Broadway on this list, even though readers are likely to be familiar with it.

The 1870s-vintage bank is across the street from beloved steak house Peter Luger. The bank building has been turned into an events venue called Weylin B. Seymour’s. The building belongs to real estate investor Juan Figueroa.

Finance Department records show that an LLC with Figueroa as a manager bought the building and adjacent lot 151 Broadway for $4.5 million in 2010.

* Williamsburgh Trust Company Building: This Beaux-Arts bank at 177 S. 5th St. is now the Holy Trinity Cathedral-Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

It was designated as a city landmark in August.

* Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Transfiguration of Our Lord: We love onion domes. And there are five of them on the church at 228 N. 12th St. — an enormous one surrounded by four small ones.

The cathedral was built in 1921. Its architectural style is Byzantine Revival, the church’s website says.


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