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The Brooklyn That Never Was Part 1

Dec 23, 2008 11:45 AM | 4 comments

I doubt that Brooklyn is more beset with projects that came to nought than any other borough--or is it? As we contemplate the slowdown, if not the demise, of the Atlantic Yards project, let us pause to consider some other ideas that got little further than the paper they were drawn on.  My last post mentioned the Union Temple House. Union Temple and Temple House

If you recall, I was transported back to 1929--Thursday October 24th to be exact-- and found myself floating in mid air next to the shell of the Flatbush wing of the Central Library, with pigeons using my head as their perch and my shoulders as--never mind, let's have a little decorum, after all this is the fifth largest public library system in the Unted States...A distant rumbling could be heard from across the river. It was the sound of the stock market falling, losing 9% of its value in a single day.

Just around that time plans were afoot to create a magnificent adjunct to the Union Temple House,  across the street. The architect was Arnold W. Brunner. Like the Raymond Almirall library design and a few other important projects, this structure never saw the light of day. In a 1926 Eagle article, Philip H. Lustig, then President of the Temple said, " After the Temple House, you know, we plan to erect a Temple building adjoining it, which will be a house of worship for between 2,500 and 3,500 worshipers." (Brooklyn Daily Eagle [BDE], May 9, 1926.) The caption of a 1925 picture of the temple house under construction says "The temple proper will be a low Greek structure while the temple house will have ten stories and contain all the appurtenances of a modern clubhouse and community center." (BDE Dec 27, 1925). In January 1930,  the Eagle announced that work was to start on the new temple on April 1st--perhaps the newsman's idea of an April fool's joke? This building was to be in the style of the Italian Renaissance and would rise 100 feet to a dome decorated in colored tile. The record falls ominously silent until Nov 16, 1936, when the Temple's president declared with forced cheer that "Economic conditions have changed much for the better during the past year. Commercial and industrial circles have made strong advances toward recovery."

It would be about 80 years before ground would actually be broken for a building on that site, and it was not to be a temple. This time, the Richard Meier Building went up before the stock market came down.

Photographs: Top--Rendering, Union Temple and Temple House. Brooklyn Daily Eagle,  Dec 22, 1929. Brooklyn Public Library--Brooklyn Collection

Bottom: Richard Meier Building and Union Temple House, Dec 23, 2008. Photograph, June Koffi.


1/4/2009 1:18:34 PM #

It was close this time too. Even if the plans were a year or two late - them my guess is that it would never have been built. Now it just stays unoccupied!


1/14/2009 9:49:40 PM #

As a relative newcomer to Brooklyn,  can you tell me what the lot was used for before the Richard Meier Building went up? Was it just an empty lot?  

Pamela Tuffley

1/15/2009 10:40:16 AM #

Just going on my memory here, but I do recall some play equipment in there at one time, perhaps belonging to a nearby day care center. Aside from that, yes, it was green space.


3/21/2009 1:55:09 PM #

Depressing waste of green space.