The Landmark Building

The Brooklyn Historical Society's building is located in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District at 128 Pierrepont Street.

The Brooklyn Historical Society's four-story Queen Anne style building was completed in 1881 and was designed by architect George B. Post. Post's bold use of extensive terra cotta ornamentation on the façade, and innovative truss system to support the ceiling of the central library, has long been revered by architectural historians. The building's masonry of unglazed terra cotta and repressed brick was the first building in New York City to use locally produced terra cotta. The facade was sculpted by Olin Levi Warner and is adorned with heroic busts of figures from history, interspersed with representations of American flora by Truman H. Bartlett. 

Post employed artisans in the spirit of the Aesthetic Movement to embellish and enrich the interior spaces of the building. Stained glass in-window lunettes and a central laylight are believed to have originated from the studio of noted stained glass artist Charles Booth. Decorations throughout the building include Minton tile floors, custom made bronze hardware (designed by Post), and elaborately carved black ash woodwork in the library.

In addition, Post applied the bridge construction technique of using a truss system to suspend the weight of a floor. In order to create an open and graceful galleried library, Post suspended the top floor of the building from iron trusses in the roof. Additional iron columns enclosed in carved wood support the galleries in the library. The building is one of the few examples of the 19th-century genre of a combined museum and library still in existence.

In July 1991, the building was recognized as a National Historic Landmark and included on the National Register of Historic Places. Portions of the interior, including the library, were designated as an Interior Landmark by the City of New York, one of the few interior landmarked buildings in Brooklyn.

Over the years, BHS’s building has been updated to accommodate changing needs and technologiesRead more about the original architect George G. Post, the 1999-2003 renovation and the current interior restoration project in the sections below.

About the Architect: George B. Post

During his prolific career, George B. Post (1837 - 1913) demonstrated innovative engineering skill, which facilitated his creation of large, open interior spaces as well as his pioneering work in the construction of skyscrapers. His Equitable Life Assurance Society building was the first office building to use elevators. In addition, his World Building and St. Paul building had the distinction of being the tallest buildings in New York at the time of their construction. One of his commercial masterpieces, the vast New York Produce Exchange, had an enormous sky-lighted hall. All of these buildings have been demolished. The New York Stock Exchange survives as an example of his creation of uncluttered interior spaces through inventive use of steel supports.

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Building Renovation, 2012-2013

Brooklyn Historical Society announces exciting changes that will transform the institution into an even more welcoming and engaging public forum. In spring 2012, BHS will embark upon a renovation to its first floor and lower level.  The designs by Christoff:Finio Architecture will provide BHS members and visitors with improved exhibition, retail, and program space, and a state-of-the-art classroom for school groups. This renovation project has been generously funded by Borough President Marty Markowitz, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Brooklyn Delegation of the New York City Council and the New York City Office of the Mayor. 

BHS is particularly pleased to let you know that the Brooklyn Historical Society will remain open throughout the renovation. The Othmer Library will remain open; BHS’s newest exhibits, Inventing Brooklyn: People, Places, Progress, and, Say Cheese! Portraits to Pics will be on view; and BHS’s education programs for school children throughout Brooklyn will continue. Public programming will shift to the library during the renovation, providing opportunities to enjoy programs in one of the most beautiful interior landmark spaces in New York. BHS will also offer programs in selected sites throughout Brooklyn during the renovation. 

Please scroll down to see the final design plans for the first floor and lower level. The newly renovated spaces are anticipated to open in fall of 2013. 

BHS EntranceThe historic entrance into the building will be reactivated as the main entry point.

renovate 2The renovation to the first floor and lower level will result in expanded exhibition , classroom, and events space.

renovate 3The first floor will feature a new reception desk and expanded retail space for gift items.

renovate 4The current lobby area will be transformed into a gallery with custom designed rotating window vitrines.

renovate 5The events space will be expanded to include seating for up to 200, built-in A/V equipment, programmable lighting control system, and new chairs, tables, podiums, and a portable stage. This will be a state of the art facility for public programs, meetings, and event rentals.

renovate6The lower level will include a fully functioning classroom with a sink and counter, cubbies and closet storage. This room will also be available for meeting and event rentals.

renovate7Exhibition space will continue to the lower level where a new gallery will be devoted to the exhibit In Pursuit of Freedom.

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Building Renovation, 1999 to 2003

An extensive renovation of the Brooklyn Historical Society's building was undertaken from 1999 to 2003 by Jan Hird Pokorny Associates.  It encompassed cleaning and repointing the unique and ornate terra cotta façade, installing a climate control system necessary for preserving our collections, and restoring the roof and building to its original splendor. Cleaning and repair of the façade returned the masonry to its original bright warm red, and the clock tower was renovated. The elevator installed in the middle of the entrance stairwell was removed, making possible the replacement of a stained glass laylight and restoring the grandeur of the entrance. In order to provide access to all floors of the building, we installed a handicapped-accessible elevator in an adjacent location. The building was wired for high speed internet access to increase accessibility to library and museum collections.

The renovated Othmer Library maintains the historic fabric of its interior while introducing climate-control for the preservation of its valuable collections. Decorative lighting fixtures reference the design of the building’s original 1880s gas lighting fixtures.

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