Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Half the Kingdom

In preparation for a massive move to Upstate New York, the Jehovah's Witnesses--longtime residents of DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights--have recently begun to sell off their Brooklyn properties.  The area will be losing a great group of neighbors, but will undoubtedly welcome the surge of new tax revenue.  While in DUMBO the Watchtower properties largely consist of restored warehouses, the Brooklyn Heights holdings are more varied.  The organization inhabits several historic buildings--a carriage house or two, various apartment buildings and the Bossert Hotel, but also possesses a rare (for Brooklyn Heights) bevy of modernist structures.

From what I can tell, the building at 107 Columbia Heights is a dormitory, built in 1959 (according to the inscription at the entrance).  It's not the prettiest building in the world, but it's growing on me.  The two-story base is a methodical and no-nonsense wall of steel, glass and stone, wrapping the corner and leading to a lush entry court along Columbia Heights Street.  Above the brick tower is restrained yet playful, with its slightly whimsical staggered pattern of windows.  The roof appears to boast a common terrace, if the tree peeking out is any indication.

107 Columbia Heights from Orange Street and Columbia Heights

107 Columbia Heights: Entry Court from Columbia Heights
107 Columbia Heights: Street-level elevation from Orange Street

A kinder, gentler Brutalism shows its colors at Pineapple and Columbia Heights.  To my untrained eyes, it appears to be a library.  Not so, according to my sources... it's more residences.  In fact, this building and the one above are connected to each other--and to at least two other buildings--by double-secret underground tunnels.  Radical.

119 Columbia Heights, from Pineapple Street

The raked mortar joints lend the building a... je ne sais quoi.  A finer grain.  A tactility to the muscular mass.

119 Columbia Heights

The Bossert Hotel, evidently the site of the only World Series celebration for the Brooklyn Dodgers, was purchased by the Watchtower in 1988 and restored faithfully to its original condition.  For the last two decades, it has provided lodging for visiting Witnesses.  Now, the hotel, too, has been sold, and will be turned back into a commercial hotel.

Bossert Hotel, at Hicks and Montague Streets
The Bossert

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