The rest is history: City may finally landmark two buildings left out of ‘Skyscraper’ historic district

The rest is history: City may finally landmark two buildings left out of ‘Skyscraper’ historic district
Photo by Steven Schnibbe

These Brooklyn Heights buildings are finally making their ’mark.

The city may landmark a pair of historic Montague Street buildings after the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted on Tuesday to add them to its calendar, and local architecture fans say the recognition is a long time coming — they’ve been campaigning to protect the two structures ever since the agency left them out of a nearby historic district five years ago.

“We’re just really pleased that the Landmarks Preservation Commission has recognized their importance,” said Peter Bray, the executive director of civic group the Brooklyn Heights Association. “We’ve been pushing them to rectify their omission by designating these two very important buildings.”

Commissioners voted unanimously to hold public hearings for the two properties near Clinton Street: the temple-like two-story People’s Trust Company building, which was built around the turn of the century and currently houses a Citibank branch, and the 15-story Art Deco circa-1930s National Title Guaranty Company tower next door — home to a very popular Chipotle — as first reported by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Both buildings are important examples of the ornate banks and insurance buildings that lined Montague Street in the years before the Great Depression, the commission said in reports on the structures.

The Brooklyn Heights Association pushed for the city to include the buildings in the Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District, which it created in 2011, but the commissioners decided not to include that chunk of Montague Street from the final map, telling the group that they didn’t think the entire block merited landmark status, according to Bray.

The two structures, along with the already landmarked Brooklyn Trust Company building at the corner of Clinton Street — a Beaux Arts bank modeled after a 17th century Italian palazzo and dating back to 1916 — form a rare trio of stunning architecture that deserve to be preserved for years to come, he said.

“They really are an ensemble,” he said. “It’s hard to find that quality of an ensemble anywhere in New York City — they belong together. They represent different styles and yet at the same time they are a coherent grouping of buildings.”

Developer Jonathan Rose bought the People’s Trust Company building for $36.5 million in 2015, and he will have to get the Commission’s okay to make any changes to the building’s exterior — which includes a six-story extension added in 1929 that faces onto Pierrepont Street — if it is landmarked.

That will make it especially tough to alter on the Pierrepont portion, as it is far taller than the Montague Street structure, though Bray said Rose has expressed his support for the historic designation.

Rose definitely seems to have his eye on developing in the area — he just demolished the building next door on Pierrepont Street, where he plans to erect a 19-story condominium building, according to plans he filed with the city last year.

The commission will now take the next step in the lengthy landmarking process, which is holding a public hearing at a yet-to-be-announced date, where people will be able to offer their two cents on whether the buildings deserve the protected status.

Jonathan Rose Companies did not respond to requests for comment.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
A piece of history: The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted on Tuesday to calendar the Citibank building at 181 Montague St. — one of the first steps towards achieving landmark status.
Photo by Steven Schnibbe