26 June 2008

The Strangest Building in Downtown Brooklyn



The dingy stretch of Court Street running through downtown Brooklyn is rich with architectural weirdness—much of it none too savory—but 93 Court Street takes the cake in my book. What's this narrow Tudor manor straight out of Stratford-upon-Avon doing next to Bruno Hardware, lending shelter to a grimy deli and bail bondsman? The building's details render it even more out-of-context than it already is: a steeply pitched, shingled roof, a slender chimney climbing to the sky, a small, leaded-glass window near the top, some half-timbering and a coat of arms.

I've always been tempted to credit the building to a vulgar developer with some grand ideas about himself. So I was somewhat stunned when I learned that the rather absurd little building was the work of actual accredited architects who chose the design for their working headquarters. Architects Samuel Malkind and Martyn Weinstein built it in 1927. The "M" and "W" in the coat of arms are their initials. The below photo, printed when the New York Times did a study of the building a few years back, reveals the the effect was much more splendid back in the day.

But I still don't get it. In the 1920s, the heyday of Art Deco, this sort of twee affair is what Malkind and Weinstein thought would attract clients? Don't get me wrong—I like the building—but even back then it must have seemed horribly old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy-ish.

Anyway, the two only stayed in partnership for two years after the building was complete, leaving 93 Court Street to be occupied by lesser business concerns for the next 78 years.



11 comments:

Francis said...

"Tudor" or Tudoresque was actually extremely popular in the 1920s, more popular in fact than Art Deco. It connoted classiness. I call it the Forest Hills effect.

Nathan said...

When I first moved to NY, I lived around the corner from this on Schermerhorn. The Evergreen (which is actually OK) was my local deli and I've loved that building since 1986!

BTW, I know its what you do but as a film Location Manager, its what I do too. I'm constantly impressed by the stuff you notice.

Anonymous said...

The first thing that popped into my head when I saw that building was "Los Angeles."

Tudor Revival was a popular style in California, and elsewhere, from the turn of the century through the '30s.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Thanks, Frances. Didn't know that.

Trickle said...

There are often one or two of these in old, forgotten downtowns. There used to be one on one of those tiny winding streets in the FiDi, and I think there might be one left in the West Village somewhere. In my experience, they usually housed an "authentic" German beer hall or restaurant.

Carol Gardens said...

I grew up in a Long Island suburb (Rockville Centre) and Tudor Revival ("mock tudor") was a very popular style for the houses there. You do find commercial building like this as well, as mentioned. As of course there is Tudor City near the UN!

Kim said...

There's actually a similar style building on Nevins street just off Flatbush. It's wider, but a similar "Tudorish" exposed beams and plaster

Anonymous said...

Hey thanks! I had been wondering about that building for ages. Definitely seemed like someone eccentric must have built it. It is really funny as that deli is fairly seedy.

Anonymous said...

i've walked by that building several times a week for the past seven years, and have never noticed the architecture before. thanks for pointing it out!

Andrea said...

And of course, you've been up to Pomander Walk on W 95th, yes? Tudor MANIA!

http://www.trulia.com/property/38914096-16-Pomander-Walk-New-York-NY-10025

Anonymous said...

I just came into possession of some blueprints to a bunch of homes built by this architect. dose anyone know of any more of his work?