Elected officials and local residents urge Landmarks to designate 20th century financial-services-industry structures. On November 29, 2016, Landmarks held hearings on the possible individual landmark designations of two buildings built as banks in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. The People’s Trust Company Building, at 181 Montague Street, and the adjacent National Title Guaranty Company Building, at 185 Montague Street, are both part of Brooklyn’s “Bank Row.” Historic banking structures on the south side of Montague are protected as part of the 2011 Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District.
The Classical Revival People’s Trust building was completed in 1906 as one of the first commercial banks in the area. The two-story building, designed by the firm Mowbray & Uffinger, possesses an imposing and richly detailed stone facade. Four massive Ionic columns, carved from the largest blocks of marble ever quarried at the time of construction, stand beneath the ornate pediment displaying anthemia and lion carvings. The building still functions as a bank, currently hosting a Citibank branch. A 1929 addition to the building would not be included in the landmark site.
The National Title Guaranty Trust building dates to 1930 and was designed Corbett, Harrison & MacMurray, a firm specializing in early skyscraper design. The building rises to 16 stories, with portions flanking the central bays setting after the 13th floor. The verticality of the building is emphasized through textured brick and projecting piers. A limestone screen at the base of the tower was designed by sculptor Rene Chambellan, whose Art Deco-style work ornaments multiple other City landmarks, including Rockefeller Center and the Daily News Building.
A representative of Council Member Stephen Levin spoke in support of designating both buildings, praising the “regal charm” of the People’s Trust Company, and calling the National Title Guaranty building an important reminder of an era when “banking was a more noble trade.”
Peter Bray, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, said the buildings were widely thought to already be landmarks in the community, and were important to conveying the area’s sense of place. Brooklyn Heights’ Otis Pearsall called the buildings “two remarkable survivors.”
Alex Herrera of the New York Landmarks Conservancy called the People’s Trust building “an exemplar of Beaux-Arts classicism,” and the National Title Guaranty Company “one of the finest Art Deco buildings in Brooklyn.” The Municipals Art Society’s Gabriel Halili testified that that the architecture of the People’s Trust Company “communicates civic pride,” and that the National Title Guaranty building was a significant representative of the period’s financial industry. The Historic Districts Council also presented testimony in support of the designations.
A representative of the ownership of the National Title Guaranty Building, the Montague-Goldman Corporation, urged Landmarks not to designate the building. He said designation would inhibit the owners’ ability to redevelop the site, and also their ability to maintain the building in a code-complaint manner. He said the building’s windows and storefront required replacement, and the structure needed significant upgrades to operate energy efficiently.
Landmarks Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan closed the hearing, and scheduled a vote on designation for January 25, 2017.
LPC: People’s Trust Company Building, 181 Montague Street, Brooklyn (LP-2586); National Title Guaranty Company Building, 185 Montague Street, Brooklyn (LP-2587) (Nov. 29, 2016).
By: Jesse Denno (Jesse is a full-time staff writer at the Center for NYC Law).