I was driving down Bedford Ave around the Crown Heights area in Brooklyn when I passed this great neo-Gothic building at Sterling Place…and noticed something that made me stop and get out to take pictures.
Right at the top center of the curve is this emblem:
Crazy, right? Apparently, this was once an auto showroom for Studebaker cars (note how the above logo matches the front tire of this car – including the air nozzle!).
Brownstoner did a thorough article on this last April, and I advise you to check it out to get the full history. In sum, in the early 1900′s, Crown Heights and the surrounding environs were then among the more affluent in Brooklyn. By 1929, this section of Brooklyn was known as automobile row, with show rooms for Chrysler, Buick, Pontiac, Ford, GM, and many others (perhaps this explains last week’s Oldsmobile post – was the building a showroom?). The Studebaker building is the only one that remains in tact from that era.
Studebaker emblems line the top of the building (above), along with this cursive logo on the tower portion:
There are some great Gothic flourishes for those who look a little closer. This guy is peeking his head through the columns in the above picture (and laughing? screaming? crying?).
Meanwhile, these elvish creatures are holding up the line of shields two stories up.
Finally, this Studebaker “S” is above the entrance to the building.
By 1941, Studebaker had stopped selling cars at this location. It became a dress store, and then later a church. A developer purchased it in 1999 and sadly eliminated the two story showroom. The inside was gutted to make 27 low-rent apartments. In 2000, the building was granted well-deserved landmark status. It’s easily one of the most beautiful buildings on Bedford Ave, and it’s nice to know that no further damage will be done to the exterior.
As a sidenote: When I was in Sevilla, Spain, last summer, I came across this great example of azulejo artwork (colorful, glazed ceramic tiles found on the sides of buildings, often used for advertising) in the Centro district. On Calle Tetuan, this beautiful ad for Studebaker Motor Cars dates back to 1924: