A History of Greenpoint in 25 Buildings: The Mechanics and Traders Bank

The Mechanics and Traders Bank, illustration by Aubrey Nolan
The Mechanics and Traders Bank, illustration by Aubrey Nolan

The stately red building at the corner of Franklin Street and Greenpoint Avenue has long been a Greenpoint icon. It has a quirky kind of dignity. It was once the Mechanics and Traders Bank, constructed in 1895 by architect Alonzo Jones in the Renaissance Revival style. The building features rough-cut brownstone at the base, somewhat mismatched with brick and red terra cotta on the upper floors. The structure makes the viewer look up to the attractive large gracefully arched bay windows, surrounded by terra-cotta trim and to the smaller round windows at their sides that give it its renaissance feel. Our eyes are also drawn to the second floor’s graceful columns topped with elegant Corinthian capitals. Separating the arched bays from the cornice is an ornate frieze. All these elements mesh together to create a beaux-arts gem of a building.

The bank was started by one of the wealthiest and most prominent Greenpointers, Archibald Meserole, who served for many years as its first president. Meserole was a tall, portly man who dressed elegantly and always wore a silk top hat. He had the money to build an equally elegant structure for his bank.

Meserole, born in 1816, was a child of one of the five ancestral Greenpoint families. He inherited large real estate holdings from his folks and used part of the land he received to open a very lucrative coal yard, but he was not the only rich business man in Greenpoint. He realized that the many rich local industrialists needed a place to invest their money, so he started the bank and it thrived.

Many years later in the 1980s the building became the home to the Polish newspaper Nowy Dziennik, but high rent forced the Polish newspaper to relocate. In 1984 the building became a co-op. Now it houses very high-priced condominium apartments.

Brownstoner even used an image of it in their former masthead. Half the building recently went on sale for a cool three million dollars. Archibald Meserole may be long dead, but his elegant bank building still has few equals in the area and is certainly worth millions.

About Geoff Cobb

Geoffrey Cobb is a Brooklyn high school history teacher and writer of the blog historicgreenpoint.wordpress.com. He has lived in Greenpoint for over 20years and is the author of a book on the history of the area, "Greenpoint Brooklyn's Forgotten Past."

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