Where the Court Street subway station intersects with the Borough Hall station, two non-functioning teller windows nearly blend into their surroundings. The teller windows, which resemble those at a drive-through above ground, were once a service provided by the Brooklyn Savings Bank, a local financial institution from 1827 until 1990. A third window is around the corner from the service windows.
From 1894 to 1962, the Brooklyn Savings Bank was headquartered at a series of locations in Brooklyn Heights, most prominently at the northeast corner of Clinton and Pierrepont Streets. That Neoclassical/Italian Renaissance structure is considered one of the finest works by the noted Brooklyn architect Frank Freeman.
Downstairs, in the subway, the bank offered commuter banking, because another feature of postwar culture was convenience, something we still value but which takes other forms today. An inscription reading “Commuter Banking” can be found above the teller windows. Between the two words are plaques stating that the Diebold Corporation built the secure interface. Once known as the Diebold Safe & Lock Company, Diebold Nixdorf is today the largest producer of ATMs in the United States.
Service call buttons are centered on the ledges at the base of the windows where a second inscription states, “Banking Hours - Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.” Stainless steel drawers for the exchange of currency and documents are located beneath the teller windows.
The Brooklyn Savings Bank headquarters were demolished in 1964, energizing the mapping of the Brooklyn Heights Historic District the following year, the first such designation in New York City. While some were preserving the past, however, others were fashioning the postwar future. Master builder Robert Moses tore down and recreated Brooklyn’s civic center using urban renewal. The Brooklyn Savings Bank constructed a modernist banking hall at 211 Montague Street (Carson, Lundin & Shaw, 1962), opposite a grand new public plaza, one of several open spaces created as part of the reconstruction of Downtown Brooklyn.
Though the original bank is gone and the commuter windows haven’t operated in years, they live on in the subway as a small relic of a bygone time.
Know Before You Go
The vestigial commuter bank branch is located on the mezzanine level inside the subway entrance at Court and Montague streets. There are two staircases at the southwest corner of the intersection and an elevator in the plaza on the opposite side of the street. The teller windows are visible from the turnstiles without paying the subway fare.