A mid-century shock in downtown Brooklyn

Editor’s Note: This story originally ran in 2015 and has been updated. You can read the previous post here.

Downtown Brooklyn is rich in architectural history, making it one of the most interesting neighborhoods in Brooklyn. A single block can bridge the distance between the years before the civil war and the present.

The former Equitable Federal Savings and Loan building at 356 Fulton Street is a mid-20th century suburb right in the heart of the city.

Neo-formalism of the mid-20th century

The architect Adolf Goldberg and his company Goldberg-Epstein Associates designed such suburban banks as well as more anonymous housing developments and other buildings. Goldberg retired in 1967 so this will be one of his last buildings. It was completed in 1968.

Buildings like the Lincoln Center complex are classified as neo-formalist because they use classic elements like symmetrical rows of columns in their design – although these elements are conceived in the most modern and abstract way. Flat roof lines are also an element of this style.

Brooklyn architecture downtown Brooklyn

This building is qualified according to this definition. Here the concrete pillars are interrupted by rows of decorative sea-blue tiles, perhaps terracotta. Though they could use a good cleanup, they still add a bit of color and pizzazz to what could have been a completely lackluster exterior.

A mid-century building for a venerable bank

This financial institution began as the South Brooklyn Cooperative Building and Loan Association founded in 1886. It was located on 3rd Avenue and 24th Street. The savings bank was founded in part to promote housing construction in what was then South Brooklyn.

The name was shortened to South Brooklyn Savings and Loan. During the early 20th century they added several other local savings banks, including one in Park Slope and one on Dean Street, and opened a branch in Bensonhurst and a branch in St. Albans, Queens.

Brooklyn architecture downtown Brooklyn 356 Fulton Street

In 1955 the bank changed its name to the Equitable Savings and Loan Association. It was the largest club in town and the second largest in the state, with assets of over $ 50 million.

Most of the time they were downtown at 44 Willoughby Street, and in 1953 they moved to 15 Willoughby. This became their headquarters in 1968.

Equitable S&L was acquired by Bowery Savings Bank in 1980. Today they are part of the Convert Federal Home Savings Bank of America.

Brooklyn architecture downtown Brooklyn

At the beginning of this century the bank was a branch of the North Fork Savings Bank. They merged with Greenpoint Savings Bank, which merged with Capital One Bank, which now has its downtown branch here.

Many thanks to Frampton Tolbert’s Mid-Century Mundane for the information on this matter. If you like mid-century architecture this blog is a must.

[Photos by Susan De Vries]

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