If I knew I was going on an adventure I would’ve worn a pith helmet.
I met up with a friend on Saturday to check out an old building and wound up doing some serious time traveling.
We were enjoying the annual Open House New York event, where hundreds of the city’s normally off-limits sites and attractions are open to the public.
My aunt suggested checking out the old Dime Savings Bank of Brooklyn on DeKalb Avenue, a building I had spotted a few weeks ago while running an errand downtown.
At the time I snapped a photo of the outside and wondered what the interior looked like. Here was my chance to find out.
Now I have to confess that I was a little concerned that I was inviting my friend to view a musty old mausoleum. What a great way to spend a Saturday, right?
However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The second we walked into the place I knew we had discovered a real gem.
Designed by Mowbray & Uffinger and built between 1906 and 1908, the Dime Savings bank is a work of art.
The vast building was made to look like Greek temple complete with a rotunda supported by red marble columns that were made from stone imported from ancient Greek quarries. I’ve been in a lot of churches in my life and this place definitely seemed like holy ground.
“I feel like Indiana Jones,” I whispered.
The rotunda was lined with marble benches and several quotes were carved into these benches to give you a lesson as well as a place to rest your caboose. These included little ditties like "Honesty is exact to the penny,” “Sloth is a motor of poverty,” and “From saving comes having.”
Walking around, I imagined men with derbies and canes and women in long dresses with parasols, coming in here to do their business. You could almost feel the souls passing through you.
Everywhere you looked there were fabulous carvings or symbols of some type. The designers were real artists and they wanted to build something that would last.
This neighborhood, like so such much of Brooklyn, is changing rapidly, with old buildings being either renovated or torn down and new structures sprouting up every time you turn around.
The bank is going to survive this onslaught—more or less.
There are plans to build a 73-story mixed-use tower with nearly 500 rental apartments next door to the bank. It will be the tallest building in the borough and the Dime will be used for retail space.
We were having such a good time that Maria checked her phone to see if any other landmarks in the open house were nearby.
“The Wifi here is terrible,” she said, and I had to laugh at the incongruity of mentioning the internet in a such an ancient place like this.
When she finally got a connection, we learned that the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument, a memorial to more than 11,500 American prisoners of war who died aboard 16 British prison ships during the Revolutionary War, was on the list and just short stroll DeKalb Avenue at Fort Greene Park.
The park is located directly across the street from my alma mater, Brooklyn Technical High School. Now I was a student there back in the Seventies, when the area was a crime-infested hellhole and nobody, I mean nobody, wanted to live there.
I went to Tech for four years but I never even thought about putting one foot in the park back in those dire, dark days.
Saturday was the first time I actually went in there, though I confess it took me a little while to relax because I was half-convince some lingering freak would bum rush us.
But that didn’t happen. The park is beautiful and it was filled with people having fun, not criminals raising hell.
After a brief stop at the Greenlight Bookstore on Fulton Street, we decided to wrap things up.
As we walked down Flatbush building we heard a terrible crash coming across the avenue. We saw a huge cloud of dust and realized one of the crumbling buildings on that block had come tumbling down.
It sounded like a disaster instead of a controlled event, but I did see some kind of construction equipment nearby, so I reckon it was planned. It was scary nonetheless.
But I guess that was the sound of time marching on, rolling over the past and constantly building anew.