Tucked away on DeKalb Avenue at the far end of the Fulton Street mall is one of Brooklyn’s most beautiful buildings; Mowbray and Uffinger’s 1908 Greco-Roman masterpiece, the Dime Savings Bank of Brooklyn.
Founded in 1859 the bank chose its name to advertise that you could open an account with just one dime. Starting in a small room in a post office on Montague Street, Brooklyn resident John Halsey became the first investor in the bank when he deposited $50. As Brooklyn flourished, so did the Dime bank’s fortunes, and by 1884, the bank had over 40,000 customers, investing over $12,000,000.
Built between 1906 and 1908, the Dime Savings bank instantly became one of Brooklyn’s most monumental buildings. The exterior was designed to resemble a neo-classical temple, with fluted columns leading to a domed roof. High above the main entrance was a statue of a young man preparing for his day’s work, next to an elderly gentleman enjoying the fruits of a productive life. With the outside walls decorated with winged bronzes of Mercury standing over the Brooklyn Bridge, the wedge shaped building certainly exuded a grandeur akin to that of the Parthenon.
While the outside was certainly astonishing, the interior outshined its architectural opulence. Designed to take your breath away, the interior was similarly built as a temple, with a giant rotunda supported by soaring red marble columns made from stone imported directly from ancient Greek quarries.
Every available space was decorated with oversize gleaming dime coins and gleaming bronze friezes celebrating industry and hard work. The marble benches for waiting customers were carved with such reassuring sentences as “a hundred years of vexation will not pay a farthing of debt.”
Yet despite all it’s fortitude and celebration of economic confidence, the Dime Savings Bank of Brooklyn fell by the wayside, eventually being taken over by Washington Mutual in 2002 (a company which failed six years later). Today the current tenants benefiting from Mowbray and Uffinger’s classical vision are J.P.Morgan & Chase. Whilst customers may not be able to walk in and open an account with a dime anymore, a visit to the old headquarters of the Dime Savings bank is a step back in time to a gilded age when downtown Brooklyn rivaled its illustrious neighbor across the East River. Update December 2016: this seems to be closed for refurbishments/work. All you can see is the facade (which is pretty cool).
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