What makes a neighborhood? People, pets and the stories that make up our days. But we also have our buildings, the places where we work, play, eat, sleep, learn and live. Throughout Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, you will find everything from colonial brownstones to housing projects to luxury apartments: buildings that have been here since the earliest days of this country. Have a building you think we should highlight? Let us know in the comments or email us at [email protected] .
Brooklyn has many landmarks, but the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower is by far the tallest in the borough. At 512 feet tall, the iconic clock tower even beats out London’s Big Ben. While the brownstones and historic houses that dominate Fort Greene and Clinton Hill bring color to Brooklyn’s streets, the clock tower at One Hanson Place is a welcome sight in the sky.
The Williamsburgh Savings Bank was an important local institution in the 19th and 20th centuries as one of Brooklyn’s two major banks. The other was it’s rival, the Dime Savings Bank of Williamsburgh. For years, the clock tower stood alone above downtown Brooklyn, far away from the bank’s original headquarters in Williamsburg. It became the bank’s main offices and home to at least 20 floors of dentist offices.
The building was completed in April, 1929. Just seven months later, the stock market crashed. The bank survived and so did the dentists: even when times are tough, people still need to get their teeth cleaned.
These days, the clock tower is no longer the tallest building in Brooklyn (that title belongs to the nearby Brooklyner apartment building) and is no longer a bank. In 2006, the building was redeveloped and renovated into luxury condos, with the former vault being used for events such as the Brooklyn Flea.
It also has the dubious honor of being known as Brooklyn’s most phallic-like building by many locals we talked to. The American Institute of Architects’ Guide to New York City even calls it “New York City’s most exuberant phallic symbol.” After all, you can see it from almost every bridge coming into Brooklyn.
While the original designs for the building included the rectangular stacks, it was the bank’s idea to top it all off with a dome. Its executives insisted that the dome was the company’s trademark, hearkening back to its original headquarters on 175 Broadway in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. And since nothing of its kind existed in Brooklyn to that point, it stood out a bit.