905 to 907 Broadway

905 and 907 Broadway

Corner of Broadway and Arion Place
Block 3150, Lots 7 and 8

Arion Place frontage of 905 Broadway (2011); Credit: Heather Hartshorn

Year Built: 1884
Building Type: Commercial and Residential
Architect: Theobald M. Engelhardt
Builder: Unknown
Original Owner: Theobald M. Engelhard

History and Analysis

The buildings at 905-907 Broadway are three-story masonry structures erected between 1884 and 1885. Built in a modified Italianate style, they were designed by Theobald M. Engelhardt (1851-1935), one of the most prolific architects working in Brooklyn’s Eastern District, for himself as an income generating property with rentable commercial spaces and dwellings. In addition, 905 Broadway, at the corner of Broadway and Arion Place, served as Engelhardt’s architectural office from 1885 until his death in 1915.

Theobald Mark Engelhardt designed thousands of structures in Brooklyn that reflect a full range of building types, from factories and churches to commercial establishments and residences.[1] Born in Brooklyn, his father was Philip Engelhardt, a political refugee from Baden who emigrated to the United States along with his wife, father, and sisters after the failed political revolutions of 1848-49 in Germany.[2] Theobald M. Engelhardt received his early education at the Williamsburgh Turn Verein school and Brown’s Business College—and later enrolled at the Cooper Institute, from which he received a certificate in the study of architecture in 1869.[3] He apprenticed in the office of his father, who was a successful carpenter and builder in Brooklyn’s Eastern District, where he was engaged with preparing plans and specifications as well as supervising the construction of buildings. Philip Engelhardt is credited with the design of the original buildings of the Williamsburgh Turn Verein, as well as numerous breweries and malthouses, including the first brew plant for the S. Liebmann & Son’s Brewing Company and the Lanzer brewery.[4] It is probable that the son worked closely with his father on these commissions and gained much practical experience and technical knowledge during his apprenticeship, as well as valuable connections to future clients. After his father retired in 1877, the Theobald M. Engelhardt established his own architectural office at 14-16 Fayette Street, and, in 1885, the practice moved to a building that he designed for himself at 905-907 Broadway.[5]

Engelhardt was a prominent member of Brooklyn’s German community and a board member of many local institutions, such as the German Savings Bank, the People’s Bank of Brooklyn, the German Hospital, the Builders’ Exchange of the Eastern District, the Brooklyn Board of Trade, the Manufacturers’ and Dealers’ League of the city of New York, and the Brooklyn Institute of Arts, a forerunner of the Brooklyn Museum of Art. He was also an active member of many social clubs and organizations, including the Eastern District Turn Verein, the Arion Singing Society, the Brooklyn League, and the Civic Club of the borough of Brooklyn.[6] By 1915, he had relocated from Brooklyn to Richmond Hill, Queens, and lived there until his death at the age of 84.[7]

The original new building permit for the structures indicate that 905-907 Broadway were each built as a three-story and attic brick store, office, and dwelling at a total cost of $9,000.[8] Detailed with limestone trim, tin roofs, and iron cornices, they are remarkably intact examples of late nineteenth-century commercial buildings and especially important for their associations with one of the most significant architects of Brooklyn’s German community. For many years, the building at 907 Broadway served as the office of Gottfriend Wersternacher, the assistant deputy commissioner of bridges of New York and a wealthy wine merchant. Born in Germany, Westernacher was active in the local Democratic party and operated several resort hotels near Rockaway Beach, including the one-hundred room Hotel Hammel.[9] Today, the buildings continue their historic uses with commercial spaces on the ground floor and residential units above.

Additional Section/ Additional Photography

905-907 Broadway (2011); Credit: Heather Hartshorn