Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Brooklyn's Lonely Skyscraper

Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower, Brooklyn

The words "New York City" immediately conjure up image after image of skylines and skyscrapers.

But it's easy to visit Brooklyn without seeing one building that even approaches the Chyrsler Building or the Empire State Building. In fact, there's only about one building that comes even close: The Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower.

It's in downtown Brooklyn, rising 37 stories above the busy Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street subway station that I pass through every day on the way to work. That means I'm always below the bank tower, but rarely above it. I see it at street level only a few times a month, either when I go to the library branch a few blocks away or visit one of our favorite bars nearby.

Because it towers over all of the nearby buildings, I've often used it as a reference point to get my bearings when I'm walking in the area (or, occasionally, giving other people directions). It's a pretty building in its own right, but I find it even more fascinating because it used to be filled with tons of dentists' offices. Now, according to Wikipedia at least, it's being turned into condominiums.

Columbus has its fair share of skyscrapers -- enough to make for a lovely view when you're driving east on Interstate 670 into downtown. Defiance, by contrast, has nada. I'm struggling to come up with even one building that has four stories. One of the tallest buildings in the city is also one of its ugliest: the courthouse.

The building was actually very beautiful way back in the olden days. But then some (apparently blind) doofus decided to eliminate the tall middle spire and intricate designs on the roof and replace them with a third story constructed of bricks that don't even match the rest of the building. I don't think you had to be Frank Gehry to realize this wasn't going to turn out well.

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