Friday, October 4, 2013

Mechanics and Traders Bank

Mechanics and Traders Bank Building, 144 Franklin Street
Sitting on the northeast corner of Franklin Street and Greenpoint Avenue is the Mechanics and Traders Bank building. The Renaissance Revival style structure was designed by Alonzo B. Jones, architect and built in 1895.[1] This "brooding but glorious"[2] structure is embellished with rich architectural details and bold classical forms that cast striking shadows, highlighting the facade's design elements in stark relief. The rusticated brownstone of the first floor creates a solid visual base for the lighter appearance of the Pompeian red terra cotta and brick upper stories which are capped with an entablature that echoes the cornice line of the adjacent building. The term "Renaissance Revival", encompasses many 19th century classical Italian revival styles but this building does not maintain strict adherence to Renaissance period motifs. The large window arches are Romanesque and the oval windows are likely referencing classically inspired architecture from periods following the Renaissance.

Original Main Entrance
The Mechanics and Traders Bank building is a beautiful structure but the entrance design is a little perplexing. Building entrances are typically communicated architecturally. When you look at a building you usually know right away where the main entrance can be found even if you do not see it yet; however, the main entrance of this building looks more like a side entrance since it is located on the less dominant Franklin Street facade. To me it looks as if there is not a main entrance at all. As a designer, I suspect that the client insisted that the building entrance be located on Franklin Street due to the street's status as, what was then, the dominant commercial street in the neighborhood.

Mechanics and Traders Bank Building
Corner of Franklin Street and Greenpoint Avenue
The Mechanics and Traders Bank was founded in 1867, merged with the Corn Exchange Bank in 1902 which eventually merged with Chemical Bank; Chemical Bank later became Chase Manhattan which is now JP Morgan Chase. In addition to financial institutions the building was home to Polish organizations before being converted into residential units. This Land Mark designated building was originally built for $30,000 to house bank offices and lodge rooms.[3] Currently, the property value is listed at $882,000 and the latest rental unit listing I could find was $5,000 for a three bedroom unit that encompasses the entire second floor.

Mechanics &Traders Bank 2nd Floor Apartment Plan

Oval Window Framed with Terra Cotta Spandrels

Arched Window and Pilasters

Pictured here is one of the Romanesque arched windows showing the painted green mullions which visually stand out due to complimentary color scheme of red and green. Also shown are the Renaissance pilasters which are based on the Corinthian Order.

1. White, Norval, Willensky, Elliot, and Leadon, Fran AIA Guide to New York. Oxford University Press, 2010.
2. "Mechanics & Traders Bank." (10 November 2011) Online.
3. "Still Going Up" Brooklyn Eagle 18 May 1889.

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