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A First Look at the Stunning Restoration of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank in Brooklyn

article-imageDome of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

A long-languishing icon of Brooklyn architecture has been meticulously restored, and Atlas Obscura got the first public tour of the revitalized building. Last Saturday we visited the Williamsburgh Savings Bank whose gold-accented dome looms up alongside the Williamsburg Bridge at 175 Broadway.

The Williamsburgh Savings Bank — the “h” alongside its name a leftover from when the neighborhood was its own town of Williamsburgh until the later part of the 19th century — was purchased in November of 2010 by Juan A. Figueroa and Carlos Perez San Martin. Now after three years of restoration it is opening as an event space called Weylin B. Seymour’s. Aside from the same initials, the name is a tribute to a 19th century man-about-the-neighborhood who is said to have loved a good party. 

article-imageExterior of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank (photograph by Allison Meier)

After a detailed presentation on how everything from the cast iron fence outside had its hundreds of missing elements restored to the process of recreating the 6,500 feet of the bank floor with Siena marble, we explored the bank space with its towering double domes. The bank was constructed between 1870 and 1875 after a design by George B. Post, an architect who also gave a stately air to the New York Stock Exchange and the Wisconsin Sate Capitol. The building is something of a Beaux Art fusion of monumental Roman classicism and Renaissance details, all filtered through the spare-no-expense grandeur of 19th century New York wealth. Later, a 1906 modification added onto the building, which was followed by a 1941 addition. 

The centerpiece is definitely the mural by Peter B. Wight, that graces the 110-foot cast iron dome with a starscape in blue encircled by ornate nature-inspired patterns. However, when the building was purchased in 2010 from HSBC, which was operating it as a branch, the painting had practicually disappeared into black, and a sheetrock wall divided this dome from its neighbor. The wall has since been torn down and the huge pile of trash that had been left in that adjacent room removed, and through months of painstaking work the mural on the dome is again vibrant.

Meanwhile, throughout the building what was impossible to restore or was missing has been replicated, such as another Wight mural that has been remade in wallpaper — complete with small mistakes to give it some “human error” as it would have originally appeared — and even the elaborate door hinges have been reinstalled. The safe, with a Napoleon III medal embedded inside, has been turned into its own room, while other spaces are covered with 19th century-style wallpaper. Even the Bird Cage elevator is operational and unchanged from its 1911 installation

Below are more photographs from our exclusive preview tour of the bank that show the floor-to-dome restoration. 

article-imageInterior of the bank (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

article-imageView of the dome mural (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

article-imageView of the dome mural (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

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The Atlas Obscura tour group (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

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Exploring the interior (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

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A Peter B. Wight mural recreated with wallpaper (photograph by Allison Meier)

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Signs for the Cashier and Clerk’s Entrance (photograph by Allison Meier)

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The original intercom system, where you could blow on the openings and they would sound a whistle in the listed rooms (photograph by Catherine Penfold-Waxman)

article-imageDetail of the intercom (photograph by Catherine Penfold-Waxman)

article-imageThe vault (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

article-imageDetail of the vault (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

article-imageNapoleon III medal on the vault (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

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View to the second dome (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

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A passageway between the two main spaces (photograph by Allison Meier)

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Looking up between the two domes (photograph by Catherine Penfold-Waxman)

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The balcony (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

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Tiffany glass globe in the balcony space (photograph by Allison Meier)

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View from the balcony (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

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Archway between the two domes (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

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The second dome (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

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Oculus of the dome (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

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Fish fountain (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

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Fireplace in the former bank president’s office (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

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Detail of the deer fireplace (photograph by Allison Meier)

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Detail of the 19th century-style wallpaper (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

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One of the ornate door hinges (photograph by Catherine Penfold-Waxman)

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Even the toiler paper holders are beautiful (photograph by Catherine Penfold-Waxman)

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Griffin detail (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

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View to the first dome (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

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Restored tile floor (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

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Board of Trustees above the vault (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

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Detail of the exterior (photograph by Mitch Waxman)

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Exterior of the bank (photograph by Allison Meier)