Purchased from the Lenape tribe by the Dutch in 1638, by the mid-19th century, Greenpoint’s pastures and farms gave way to industry. Entrepreneur Neziah Bliss secured a ferry service to Manhattan, and the town joined the city of Brooklyn, transforming the neighborhood with diverse industrial activity.
Industry and the Arts
Homes for tradespeople and merchants proliferated on the waterfront, as Greenpoint became a hub for shipbuilding, printing, pottery, glass works and foundries. Continental Iron Works built the USS Monitor, the Union’s first ironclad fighting ship, launched on Bushwick Creek in 1862.
As Brooklyn changed from pastoral farmland to industrial hub, the citizens of Greenpoint were living in unsanitary conditions, much the same as those across the East River in Manhattan. Only a handful of homes had indoor plumbing, a luxury for a privileged few.
City Beautiful Movement
At the Columbian Exposition of 1893, architect Daniel Burnham launched a grand plan to bring
order to chaos in urban development. Citing European cities, The City Beautiful Movement proclaimed that urban landscapes must be planned with aesthetics, infrastructure and human services for all.
Louis H. Voss
“Build baths, big ones, handsome ones, and in every crowded quarter of the town.”
— April 1902, The Brooklyn Eagle; Architect Louis Henry Voss answered the call to transform the urban landscape of Brooklyn. The son of a Dutch farmer from Vermont, he studied at Pratt Institute and held offices at 65 DeKalb Street.
Luxury Homes, Clubs and Hospitals
Voss designed three of Brooklyn’s seven public baths, at Huron Street, Pitkin and Montrose Avenues, as well as the 68th Street Precinct House, Kings County Hospital Extension, elegant private residences, and The Union League Club, formed by supporters of the Union cause in the Civil War.
Huron Street Bathhouse 1903
True to the City Beautiful Movement philosophy, Voss designed the Huron Street bathhouse in Roman Revival style. The philosophy promoted beautification and monumental grandeur to express order, dignity and harmony.
Relic of a Century Past
After World War II, public baths became obsolete with standardized indoor plumbing. By 1956, the Huron Street Bathhouse was the last bathhouse operating in Brooklyn. In 1964 the City of New York sold the Huron Street Bathhouse for use as a warehouse and artist studios.
A Neighborhood Icon Reimagined
Recapturing the bathhouse’s historic significance, Christian Pompa and Christine Blackburn envision a new era for 139 Huron Street as nine residences. Careful restoration appears in elements such as the original stone carved tablets above the portals, and illuminated preserved exterior details showcase original Roman Revival features.