Inside the storied Hotel Bossert
The Brooklyn Heights hotel loved by Dodgers and debutantes alike readies for its 21st-century relaunch — likely coming this September.
Brooklyn Heights’ legendary Hotel Bossert, which for three decades was closed to the public while the Jehovah’s Witnesses owned it, will reopen soon.
This time, it looks like the relaunch of the Waldorf-Astoria of Brooklyn, as it was known, might really happen.
On a sneak-peek tour I took on Wednesday, it appeared that most parts of the 14-story, Renaissance Revival-style building at 98 Montague St. could be ready to receive guests in a few months.
“We’re hoping for a September soft opening,” Aliya Huey told me before I took my tour with Stephen Allen, the project manager for the Bossert’s renovation, who has been involved with the project for five years.
Huey is the general manager of Downtown Brooklyn’s Tillary Hotel, whose majority owner is the Chetrit Group — also the owner of the Bossert.
Bars and restaurants won’t open right away
Huey said she will “more than likely” be the Bossert’s general manager for the first couple months it’s open. She’ll keep handling her duties as the Tillary Hotel’s general manager at the same time.
The soft opening means that a lobby bar, first-floor restaurant and rooftop bar won’t yet be operational, Huey said. There isn’t a timetable for when those facilities will open.
Though the lobby bar won’t launch for a while, the lobby is in beautiful shape.
There’s eye candy right inside the front door in the form of a circular chandelier from the 1940s made of solid brass and crystals. And an entrance to a staircase is made of carved marble.
The main part of the lobby is a long room bordered by a row of soaring columns. There are glam chandeliers all over the place. Light pours in through arched windows. A mural adorns the wall that’s farthest from the front door.
‘It’s Brooklyn’s hotel’
Huey feels the Brooklyn Heights Historic District property’s rich history sets it apart from the rest of the local hospitality industry.
“So many of these hotels are new. The Bossert has been here since 1909,” she said.
“It’s Brooklyn’s hotel,” Huey said. “When guests come, they’ll be staying at a friend’s house on Montague Street.”
The Brooklyn Dodgers knew how to party
A timber merchant named Louis Bossert built the hotel. The designer was Helmle & Huberty, a prestigious architectural firm of that era.
In 1916, a restaurant called the Marine Roof was added to the top of the property. It became a favorite gathering place for debutantes and high society. Swing bands such as the Bossert Hotel Orchestra played there.
“An Architectural Guidebook to Brooklyn” by Francis Morrone says the Marine Roof closed in 1949.
One of the hotel’s memorable nights was Oct. 4, 1955, when the Brooklyn Dodgers celebrated their World Series victory over the New York Yankees.
Some 2,000 fans gathered outside the Bossert to see their triumphant team head to the party. Inside, Dodgers pitcher Johnny Podres and power hitter Duke Snider — aka the Duke of Flatbush — led a conga line in the hotel’s Gold Room.
Guests’ cars will be kept off Montague Street
In modern-day Brooklyn Heights, some of the Bossert’s neighbors are concerned the hotel could cause traffic congestion on Montague Street. There’s already a steady stream of delivery trucks in front of Key Food, which is next door to the Bossert.
Huey met a couple weeks ago with the Brooklyn Heights Association’s board.
“I reassured the Brooklyn Heights Association there won’t be traffic jams,” she told me.
Hotel guests will not be allowed to park on the street, she said. Their cars will be valet-parked at a Montague Street garage.
One factor that slowed down the reopening of the Bossert was that the management company the property owners initially hired a couple years ago to run it, Fen Hoteles, stuck around for just a short time.
Fen, which is based in Argentina, was going to call the property the Esplendor Bossert Brooklyn. Fen managed the Tillary Hotel, which was called Dazzler Brooklyn at that time.
All Along the Watchtower
On my Bossert tour, I stopped into the furnished hotel rooms on its ninth floor.
In one of the bathrooms, the tub is installed beneath a picture window. It has a tremendous view of historic Brooklyn Heights buildings, the Manhattan Bridge and in the distance, the new Hudson Yards complex on Manhattan’s West Side.
The Chetrit Group has owned the Bossert since November 2012, when the real estate investor bought it jointly with David Bistricer of Clipper Equity for $81 million, city Finance Department records indicate. The Jehovah’s Witnesses sold it to them.
In March, Bistricer sold his 40 percent stake in the hotel to the Chetrit Group, Finance Department records show.
During its three decades of ownership, the Watchtower did a meticulous renovation of the deteriorating building and used it to house the staff of its world headquarters, which was located in Brooklyn Heights.
In the last two years they owned the property, the Jehovah’s Witnesses turned the Bossert into free lodging for out-of-town members of their religious group who came here for headquarters visits.
The Watchtower sold the Bossert as part of a multi-year liquidation of its vast real-estate holdings in Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO. It carried out the sell-off because it moved its headquarters to Warwick, New York.
A rooftop with epic views
Allen took me to see the Bossert’s rooftop, which has indoor dining spaces with windows facing Bay Ridge, Downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights.
A glassed-in bar has epic views of Brooklyn Heights, the World Trade Center and other lower Manhattan skyscrapers and the Statue of Liberty. So does a narrow terrace right outside it — which is 140 feet long, Allen said.
The terrace is going to be quite a place to drink and see sunsets.
“I’m so proud of the restoration work we’ve done to bring the hotel back to its original glory,” Allen said.
Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.
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