Williamsburg

The Forman Building in Williamsburg gets landmarked

It was one of the Landmarks Preservation Commission's Backlog95 properties, across from Peter Luger

December 13, 2016 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This is the Forman Building, a cast-iron Williamsburg property that belongs to the owners of Peter Luger, the famous steakhouse. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan

Peter Luger’s owners have a newly minted landmark on their hands.

It’s the Forman Building, AKA 183-195 Broadway, in Williamsburg, which experts consider to be the finest surviving cast-iron building in Brooklyn.

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The city Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted unanimously on Tuesday to designate Forman-Family Inc.’s distinctive 1880s-vintage property as an individual landmark at a public meeting at the agency’s Lower Manhattan headquarters.

Sol Forman’s heirs, who own the handsome four-story building, also own Peter Luger, the famous steakhouse, which is located cater-cornered to the Forman Building.

Its new status as a city landmark means the Forman Building cannot be demolished or undergo exterior alterations without the LPC’s permission.

Cast-iron 183-195 Broadway, on the corner of Driggs Avenue, has unusual exterior decorations including calla lilies on its pilasters.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission held its first public hearing about the building in 1980.

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It was a Backlog95 property — one of 95 New York City sites that sat for decades on the LPC’s designation calendar with no action taken.

In November 2014, the commission decided to remove these properties, unreviewed, from its calendar. But preservationists cried foul, so the LPC instead made a special effort to decide the sites’ landmarking fates in a timely manner.

On Tuesday, the commission dealt with the last remaining Backlog95 properties; the Forman Building was one of them.

The Italianate-style property was designed by Williamsburg architect William Ditmars and constructed for shoe dealers James R. Sparrow and his son James R. Sparrow Jr. The cast-iron portion of the building was designed by Bavarian-born architect Herman J. Schwarzmann and made by Atlantic Iron Works.  

For several decades, the Forman family used it as a factory for manufacturing silverware, stamped-metal giftware and other products as well as a sales office.

The late Sol Forman bought Peter Luger at auction in 1950. The Formans closed their metalware business in the 1980s.

 


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