Art Deco Jazz in Brooklyn Heights

January 19th, 2014 · 6 Comments · Columns and Features, Explore New York

Naomi Fatouros, one of three children of architect H.I. Feldman, once wrote that her father “had no pretensions about being artistic.” Still, architects and builders had high regard for Feldman for creating building plans that minimized construction costs and that provided renters and buyers with good views and high-quality apartment layouts, she said in the letter to The City Review. Whatever the merits of each of the thousands of buildings that Hyman Isaac Feldman designed in the New York metropolitan region, The Cranlyn certainly exemplifies artistic beauty and style. This Brooklyn Heights building at 80 Cranberry St., like various high-rises Feldman also designed on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx early in his career, is a handsome Art Deco structure.

Walking Brooklyn Heights, I was particularly delighted to explore this building and several others with David Thompson, an expert on Art Deco and a friend who shares the wonder and inspiration of this style from all over the world on his blog, Art Deco Buildings. As with so many Art Deco structures, The Cranlyn rewards you the closer you look at it (which is a problem for many people who fly by in their walking). Built in 1931, it has what the AIA Guide to New York City calls “jazzy brickwork” in eye-catching bands and some dazzling features on the front and entrance and in the foyer.

In a city of constant change like New York, one especially appreciates survivors of a long history such as the Cranlyn building and hopes it will endure. It’s both a witness to a certain era of amazing design and a continual living entity as its residents’ home now. As a young architect, Feldman – who went on to design more than 4,000 apartment houses and commercial buildings in a career that lasted until the 1970s – rightfully earned praise for this building. He received the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce’s first award for best apartment house design in 1932, according to a bio in a New York Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) report. During some of the later decades of the 20th century, the owners didn’t keep the building in tip-top shape. Fortunately, in recent years, the owner has performed restorative work, as the Brooklyn Heights Blog notes. The building lies within the Brooklyn Heights Historic District, which affords it some protections from the LPC. Hopefully, too, the recent work augurs well for this Art Deco high-rise to reach its 100th birthday in 2031 well cared for. An appreciative look at it certainly reinforces why this matters.

The banded appearance above the entrance on Cranberry Street

Another view of the front

The striking decoration above the main entrance



A beautiful panel above the entrance, which shows rays of sunlight around a rendering of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower

A decorative panel above an exterior doorway

The elevator door in the lobby

An exquisite panel on the elevator door

A geometric pattern on the front of the lobby desk

View the slide show larger at Flickr.

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6 Comments so far ↓

  • David Thompson

    Another great essay, Susan, made all the better by the fact that I was with you and was able to see the building firsthand which is too often not the case with the wonderful buildings you unearth.

  • Susan DeMark

    Thank you so much, David! Very grateful. I quite agree with your sentiment — especially the joys of discovering a building when in the company of such a great friend as you. Now I have some questions I’m going to want to ask about it soon!

  • Matt Wey

    Can anyone tell me who “Cranlyn” was? I live in a home on Cranlyn Road in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

    • Susan DeMark

      Matt,

      I tried to dig up who or what Cranlyn was when researching this building, but I wasn’t able to find an answer. I will give it another try and see what I find out because I have some other sources I can check out. Meanwhile, someone else may know the answer.

      Interesting that you live on a road named Cranlyn. Thanks for posing the question!

      Susan

  • Janet Bolitho

    Great to read of this exploration of Cranlyn with our mutual friend, David, and to be introduced to the amazing details to be found in this building.

    • Susan DeMark

      So glad that you enjoyed the exploration. It was great fun and inspiring to look at the Cranlyn with David. It’s definitely worth a look on your next visit to New York! Those panels are incredible.

      Warm regards,
      Susan

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