Studebaker of Bedford Avenue

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.

Stud 01

Right at the top center of the curve is this emblem:

Stud 03

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.

Stud 04

Studebaker emblems line the top of the building (above), along with this cursive logo on the tower portion:

Stud 05

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?).

Stud 06

Meanwhile, these elvish creatures are holding up the line of shields two stories up.

Stud 07

Finally, this Studebaker “S” is above the entrance to the building.

Stud 08

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.

Stud 02

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:

Stud 09

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25 comments

  1. There’s also a Studebaker building on W 131st St, in Columbia University’s Manhattanville development area. The building’s been refitted inside and now houses CU’s HR offices, among other services.

    It’s not nearly as pretty as the one in Brooklyn, but then I think it was more a factory than a showroom:
    http://www.columbia.edu/acis/history/studebaker-building.html

    Ah! No. “Automobile finishing plant”:
    http://www.cuf.columbia.edu/workinginstudebaker/docs/Studebaker/history.html

  2. It appears there was another Studebaker showroom at the top of Times Square once, but it succumbed to the wrecking ball 5 years ago:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/08/nyregion/08studebaker.html?ex=1257570000&en=e238fa7cf45173e8&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland

  3. I love that building, was on that very corner this morning. I’m quite surprised you didn’t mention the building across the street (NW corner of the same intersection), which is the “New Tabernacle Church” or something according to the signage, but has some excellent stone detailing along the top– several fairly intricate dragons (15-20 feet long each), lots of 3-dimensional clouds, and stone carvings made to look like a wood fence posts. Definitely worth a look if you’re back in the neighborhood!

  4. That wasn’t just any dress store, that is the original Loehmann’s site. A whole generation of kids remembers playing on the ornamental animals and men of a certain age remember volunteering to take their wives to this store so they could have good site lines to the communal dressing rooms, an innovation that Sophie started there.

    • Mollie – I was dragged to Loehmann’s as a little boy. There were no communal dressing rooms. There were no dressing rooms period. The women would disrobe right by the racks! Fortunately at that age (4 or 5) I was more interested in the suits of armor and other medeival decorations that enhanced the store’s “castle-like” ambiance.

  5. I was sketching the old Loehmanns from my car (I sketch old buildings), when I happened to look up and see the studebaker building. (I drew that too!) Then I came home and found this site.. It feels good to have a connection to history. These buildings, et al, present a beautiful style that is no longer used. It’s an honor to live in a city that cherishes its vintage architecture.

  6. Thank you for the amazing research and eye you have for the fascinating aspects to be found among NYC – this building reminds me of one on North Broad Street in Philadelphia – a former Packard showroom – now apartments – they elected to put full-size neon replicas of the card in the old showroom/first floor lobby – thanks from a big car buff/old building fan!

  7. My father owned Almyra Studebaker/Packard on Coney Island Ave in the 1950′s. I think it was the only other Studebaker dealer in Brooklyn. I didn’t know about the building you photographed but now definitely want to go see it. Thanks for the memories!!!

    • Mt father had his 1956 Golden hawk serviced here, and later purchased an Avanti here……the salesman’s name was Albert Fredrick I believe.

  8. Studebaker also had an assembly building on West 131st Street. Columbia University owns it now and uses it for offices. It’s not nearly as beautiful as the Brooklyn building but it does retain the Studebaker logo on the tower at the top.

  9. Correction………I was referring to Almyra Packard at 1780 Coney Island Avenue.

  10. I found another nice 20s stude showroom on long Island near the Hamptons.I could take a picture and send it if you tell me where to send it.

  11. Was also a disco at one time called THE IRON RAIL

  12. Quay way deep in the found profoundness of these nests of yore. I position my envy now not as one of Deadly’s seven, but admiring of the hawk flight, or the cool reprieve of cooing doves ceder perch.

  13. Michael D'Ambrosio

    I have also seen and taken pics of this building a good one .thankfully it has been saved.

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