Brooklyn buildings nominated for national historic status

March 16, 2021 Editorial Staff
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Williamsburg Houses was one of earliest public housing complexes; Loew’s Kameo is a surviving 1920s movie palace

The New York State Board for Historic Preservation has recommended adding 20 buildings throughout the state, including three in Brooklyn, to the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

“The nominations reflect the state’s commitment to supporting the incredible and sometimes overlooked history forged by the diverse people of New York,” said Erik Kulleseid, commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which oversees the Board for Historic Preservation.

State and National Registers listing can assist owners in revitalizing properties, making them eligible for various public preservation programs and services, such as matching state grants and state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits, according to the state Parks Department..DAILY TOP BROOKLYN NEWSNews for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

Since 2011, the state has approved use of rehabilitation commercial tax credit for more than 1,000 historic properties, driving more than $12 billion in private investment. The State and National Registers are the official lists of buildings, structures, districts, landscapes, objects, and sites significant in the history, architecture, archaeology and culture of New York State and the nation. 

The 1930s-era Williamsburg Houses, looking east on Leonard and Scholes streets. Wikipedia photo by Jim Henderson

In Brooklyn, the buildings are:

  • Williamsburg Houses– The Williamsburg Houses are 20 four-story apartment buildings covering more than 20 acres and constructed during the Great Depression by the then-fledgling NYCHA in partnership with the federal Public Works Administration. The project was one of the earliest public housing projects funded by the federal government, and was designed by prominent architects Richmond H. Shreve and William Lescaze. The buildings maintained the scale of the neighborhood and provided tenants with access to ample light and air.  The basement community rooms were decorated with modernistic murals that were eventually covered over with paint, but which were recovered in the late 1980s and put on permanent display at the Brooklyn Museum.
  • Loew’s Kameo Theater – Located at 530 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, the four-story building is an intact example of a 1920s neighborhood movie palace in New York City. The exterior of the building features an ornate, eclectic mix of classical, Mesopotamian, and Egyptian designs, while the 1,400-seat interior was done in a neoclassical style. The theater remained open until 1965 and was converted into a church in 1974 by the Philadelphia Church of Universal Brotherhood, an African-American Seventh-Day Adventist congregation.
  • 240 Broadway – Located in Williamsburg, this five-story, former mixed-used factory building constructed in 1892 is unusual due to its rare and distinctive cast-iron design. Built for a wealthy German-American furrier, the building is one of only 20 cast-iron buildings that survive in Brooklyn. At some point, it was converted into apartments, In 2019, after a new owner bought the property, the building became the focus of a landlord-tenant conflict after the owner reportedly started handing out eviction notices to the building’s tenants.
A detail from the colorful murals that adorned the community rooms of the Williamsburg Houses for many years. They are now on display at the Brooklyn Museum. Public domain photo from Brooklyn Museum collection

Two other buildings in New York City were nominated. One is the Lorraine Hansberry apartment at 337 Bleecker St., Greenwich Village, where playwright Hansberry, the author of “A Raisin in the Sun,” lived with her husband Robert Nemiroff from 1953 to 1950. The other is the Women’s Liberation Center on West 20th Street in Chelsea,  a former firehouse that served as the advocacy headquartered for feminism in the New York City. It opened in 1972, when the women’s liberation movement was just beginning, and soon began to house pioneer lesbian organization as well.

The other buildings are located in Westchester, the Albany area, the Finger Lakes area, the Southern Tier and the “North Country” area.

“These latest nominations continue the Division for Historic Preservation’s (DHP) commitment to designating and supporting historic sites that represent the histories of our state’s diverse population,” said Daniel Mackay, Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation at State Parks.

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