This fantastic, albeit sadly deteriorating building, was not an armory or the mansion of a would-be baron of industry. It was a police station, and from 1892, when it was built by architect Emile Gruwe, until 1970, when the cops cleared out, it served and protected the 68th precinct of Sunset Park, Brooklyn. It fell into disuse, and a fire did some major damage in 1980, but the Romanesque Fourth Avenue building was landmarked anyway in the 1984.
The red paint does the building a disservice. According to a New York Times article 20 years ago, the bricks were originally orange, which contrasted nicely with the terra cotta, nearly white limestone, dark brownstone and polished granite.
It's hard to tell what's going on with the place now. It was bought in 1984 by the Sunset Park School of Music (they were the only bidder and got it for a mere $15,000); a sign naming the school as the building's future tenant still hangs on the door. However, a Times account from 2000 reported that the school gave up the effort and sold it to the Brooklyn Chinese-American Association, which was going to turn it into apartments. There are some freshly minted building permits posted nearby. But no discernible activity is going on inside or out. It's not hard to understand why. A cursory glance at the heap would tell anyone that it would take millions and millions to fix it up. And who's going to spend that money on an arts center in mid-Brooklyn? Sad, but true.
It's funny. In both Times articles, people were quoted as calling the structure an eyesore. What is it about today's world that beautiful buildings fallen on hard times are eyesores that must go, while horrifyingly ugly new buildings that replace them are acceptable and an improvement.