City Acts to Save 186 Remsen

Built in the late 19th century, the office building at 186 Remsen Street has, in the memory of your correspondent, been the national headquarters of the NAACP, the home of Little Flower Children’s Services, and, for the past decade or so, vacant. Now the City is moving to save it.

The Brooklyn Paper: The city set aside its own landmarking rules on Tuesday to speed up historic preservation of a glorious — though dilapidated — Brooklyn Heights building.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission moved ahead with the unusual effort to landmark 186 Remsen St. — rather than include it in an already-proposed Skyscraper District — out of concern that the owner of the building would demolish or alter it before the historic district could be finalized.

Originally called the Franklin Building (and, according to the Brooklyn Paper article, originally nine stories tall), 186 Remsen was designed by the architects Parfitt Bros. (who also designed the Berkeley, Grosvenor, and Montague apartment buildings on Montague Street) in what Francis Morrone, in his An Architectural Guidebook to Brooklyn, calls “their craggy, broody Romanesque idiom”. Morrone also notes “the big, bad entrance arch beloved of this romantic style.”

Addendum: This Brownstoner piece tells of the building’s present sad condition. It also quotes a “real estate insider” as saying that St. Francis College (which, being next door, seems to me a logical purchaser) tried unsuccessfully to buy it.

BHB photo by C. Scales

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  • Andrew Porter

    A gorgeous building which alas lost its cornice at some time in the distant past, likely the 1960s or before. I’ve noticed more broken windows recently, and the pigeons don’t pay rent…

  • Claude Scales

    I’ve searched without success for an image of the building pre-decapitation, which certainly happened before I moved here in 1983. I found a Brownstoner piece about the building, which I’m linking to an addendum to my post, that attests to its present sad condition.

  • Michael Towers

    Can’t trust St. Francis to protect the building. Remember what happened to 180 Remsen

  • Jorale-man

    I wonder what causes the city to speed up the preservation process. Perhaps they got wind of St. Francis looking at the space? It is a beautiful old building despite its condition. Hopefully there’s enough impetus to save it.

  • Andrew Porter

    I have sent an image from the New York Public Library Digital Library to Homer. I think it shows the building with a dormer style roof, much different from the flat roof it now has.

  • Reggie

    Michael, St. Francis does not own the Franklin Building. And Jo-man, St. Francis (and numerous) others have had ample opportunity to rent this building but there is no market for whatever terms the owner is looking for.

    LPC proposed this as an individual landmark as a pre-emptive move to keep the owner from damaging or demolishing the building while the Skycraper Historic District, of which it is a part, goes through review.

    (Let me test if the html I originally included above——would have worked.)

  • Reggie

    A-ha! It did.

  • hicksonhicks

    Does anyone care about the owner’s property rights? How is the owner compensated for his newly imposed inability to develop his property? If this property’s landmark status has a public benefit, shouldn’t the public reimburse the owner for his lost economic potential? The only difference from Venezuela is that its a mob doing the expropriation rather than a despot.

  • Reggie

    hicksonhicks, if the owner wanted to develop the property, they had ample opportunity to do so during the past—what? two decades?—when they decided to instead leave the building vacant.

  • Glenna

    So sad to think another modestly distinguished building might be lost on that block. I am still stunned at the vandalism perpetrated by St. Francis College, when they destroyed their fine old library building and replaced with something comically banal. I assume the new library is serving more students, more efficiently– yet the underlying message from St. Francis (if anyone is listening) is somewhat less positive.