I was in Bay Ridge for a dental appointment when I once again passed the huge bank building at 5th Avenue and Bay Ridge Parkway (called by all Bay Ridgeites “75th Street”) when I recalled that I had been past this building likely thousands of times without going inside, while I resided in Bay Ridge from birth in 1957 until March 1993, when I moved to Queens. It hadn’t been “my” bank — however, I did apply at the Manufacturers Hanover on the opposite corner in 1984, and I’m still with that bank today — now JP Morgan Chase, after a series of mergers. Presently, this bank building has become a Chase branch, so I assumed I wouldn’t be given the bum’s rush if I showed them my Chase bank card. As it happened, that strategy was moot as no one either noticed my presence or cared about it.
The building was constructed beginning in 1934 as a branch of the Lincoln Savings Bank of Brooklyn, which was incorporated as the German Bank of Brooklyn in 1866 and hen changed to the new name in 1917, no doubt World War I influencing that decision.
According to the Brooklyn Eagle, June 11, 1934, ground was scheduled to be broken on or about July 1, 1934, with a facade of Indiana granite limestone with a black polished rosetta base. The banking room was to have a ceiling height of 30 feet, 8 inches and the walls and pilasters (half columns attached to the walls) of San Quentin stone. The floors were to be of terrazzo with brass dividers. The windows were to be 22 feet high (they still are and are one of the bank’s most enduring features).
However the greatest feature the article did not address were the large wall murals. Bear in mind that the bank was constructed in 1934, a few years before the Belt Parkway was constructed along the waterline. Thus, these large panels depict the Bay Ridge shoreline along the Narrows, close to how the shoreline appeared in the early 20th Century. Unfortunately, some bank offices obscure parts of the murals. I do not know the artist’s name.
Another mural shows Abraham Lincoln giving a speech to a crowd, with another speaker seated on the platform. This likely depicts the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates in which Lincoln (R) opposed Stephen Douglas (D) for a Senatorial seat in Illinois, the main issue being slavery in that state. Lincoln lost the election.
One of the crown jewels of the bank’s interior is this beautifully lettered plaque, featuring Lincoln’s signature, presenting Lincoln’s thoughts on capitalism and the pursuit of it, given while he was accepting an honorary membership in The Workingmen’s Association of New York on March 21, 1864.
Beside the bronze of Lincoln above the front door, another tangible relic of the building’s stint as the Lincoln Savings Bank are two display cases (I do not know what the displays were) featuring a classical “L” resembling a British pound sign.
One more discovery. Both sides of Bay Ridge Parkway are lined with wonderful attached brick dwellings with round bays. One aspect I had never noticed till now, however, is that the group on the north side is named Florence Row. The late Bob Guskind of Gowanus Lounge noticed this feature in 2007.