A Neoclassical and an Art Deco Building, both from the early 20th century, significant contributors to Brooklyn’s “Bank Row,” added to Landmarks’ calendar. On August 9, 2016 the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to add two adjoining Brooklyn buildings to its calendar: the People’s Trust Company Building, at 181 Montague Street, and the National Title Guaranty Building, at 185 Montague Street. Both buildings are prominent members of Downtown Brooklyn’s “Bank Row,” developed in the early 20th century between the burgeoning residential neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights and the commercial and civic hub around Borough Hall. Former bank buildings on the south side of Montague fall within the Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District, and others in the row have been previously designated. The two structures calendared at the meeting are the only historic financial services buildings on the street to remain unprotected.
The People’s Trust Company building was completed in 1906 to designs by the firm of Mowbray and Uffinger. The bank’s Neoclassical design was meant to project the values of stability, wealth and civic pride, according to Landmarks’ Research Department. The decades following the end of the Civil War saw a high demand for banks as Brooklyn’s population grew rapidly. The People’s Trust Building was among the first banks built on Montague Street and contributed to its developments as a commercial thoroughfare. Its four Corinthian columns were each carved from a single block of marble, reputedly the largest ever quarried at the time. The cornice is adorned with limestone details. An addition to the bank was constructed in 1929, that Landmarks researchers called “stylistically unrelated” to the rest of the building. The structure still serves as a bank, housing a Citibank branch.
The Art Deco National Title Guaranty Company Building was completed in 1930. The building was designed by the firm of Corbett, Harrison and MacMurray, pioneers in the field of skyscraper design. The tower’s central shaft rises thirteen stories, with an additional three setback stories, and the building is clad in textured brick, laid in a vertical pattern. The building’s verticality is also emphasized by piers projecting from stepped buttresses.
The buildings also features a decorative limestone screen, displaying stylized figures of security and industry, designed by artist Rene Chambellan, who specialized in architectural sculpture, usually in an Art Deco style. Chambellan’s other work includes the granite bas-relief on the Daily News Building, and embellishments to the Chanin Building, Rockefeller Tower, and the Panhellenic Tower.
The firm that built the tower failed during the Depression and was liquidated in 1935. The building has remained substantially intact, with commercial storefronts added to the base.
Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said both buildings were worthy of Landmarks’ consideration, and formed a “Critical part of the ensemble of Montague Street.”
Chair Srinivasan did not set dates for hearings on the two items, but stated she expected them to take place within “the next several months.”
LPC: People’s Trust Company Building, 181 Montague Street, Brooklyn (LP-2568); National Title Guaranty Company Building (LP-2587) (Aug. 9, 2016).
By: Jesse Denno (Jesse is a full-time staff writer at the Center for NYC Law)