Saturday, February 28, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the first post on this blog, and what a year it has been! I'd like to thank you, my readers. It is truly gratifying to have received tens of thousands of hits over the last year. At this point in time, the Lounge averages hundreds of hits a day, and many of these are repeat visitors.

I endeavor to capture the structures presented in this blog as best I can in order to create a permanent record of their existence, and their grandeur. Many will not be around in a decade's time. They sure don't make 'em like they used to; that buildings like these are left to rot really makes a statement about our collective myopia. The motto of this blog, a quote from my ideological father, really rings true here: "Great architecture has only two natural enemies: water, and stupid men."

In the year to come, I hope to have the time to update more regularly. I certainly have much to share; in the next few months, look for posts on several asylums, North Brother Island, and a whole slew of other historically significant buildings.

Thank you again, my readers. I wouldn't do it without you.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Brooklyn Navy Yard Hospital Complex

One of two grand staircases inside Naval Hospital building at daybreak.

The story of the Brooklyn Navy Yard hospital complex, historically known as the Hospital Annex and recently known as NAVSTA Brooklyn, begins in 1824 with the sale of the Schenck Farm to the secretary of the Navy. Adjacent to the Navy Yard (known then as the Brooklyn Naval Shipyard), the plot of land was envisioned as a hospital and support facility for the Yard. When first purchased, it was separated from the Yard proper by mudflats created by the Wallabout Bay; as the bay was filled in to extend the Yard, the boundary all but vanished.

Construction of the hospital facilities began in earnest in 1830; the main hospital building was completed in 1838. By 1850, the Annex was a self-contained parcel of land, walled-in, with a gatehouse, a laboratory, and a cemetery. In 1864, the Surgeon's Residence was constructed. During the Civil War, the hospital would supply over one third of the medicines used by Union troops, and the basement of the main hospital building would be used to confine and treat wounded Confederate prisoners. During this period, more space was needed, and needed quickly, and a wooden annex was added to the main hospital building. This allowed hundreds of additional beds in the facility; over 500 patients could be treated at once.

A map of the Hospital Annex during the Civil War. Note the annex attached to the rear of the originally C-shaped main building.

The Hospital Annex would serve the Navy through several more wars, providing care facilities, research, and medicine production. During the Second World War, the hospital was overburdened (treating over 4,700 patients in six months during the height of combat), and so after the war, in 1948, the Hospital Annex was decommissioned, with its functions transferred to the much larger Naval Hospital at St. Albans, Queens. Over the next forty years, substantial demolition would occur at the complex, leaving just over 30 buildings still standing.

In 1966, the Navy Yard was decommissioned. However, the Annex would remain in the hands of the Navy as NAVSTA Brooklyn, a support and administration facility. Many of the remaining buildings were transformed into quarters and offices for enlisted men and officers alike. The main hospital building would remain in abandonment. In 1989, the Navy disposed of NAVSTA Brooklyn. On their way out, they stabilized and abated the main hospital building and the Surgeon's Residence, both New York City landmarks. Since 1993, the property has belonged to the Brooklyn Navy Yard; recently, however, Steiner Studios has purchased the complex in order to expand their studio space. There are high hopes that, at the very least, some of the buildings (including the two landmarks) will receive new life.

Here is a look into a few of the buildings on this historic campus.

Building R95

Constructed 1830-1838
Original designation: Naval Hospital
Final designation: Naval Hospital

The main hospital building is truly a sight to behold. The superstructure, over 170 years old, is in remarkably good condition. Because of stabilization and abatement, the entire interior is whitewashed, leaving the place eerily monochromatic except when the prevailing daylight happens to paint color onto the walls.

The rising sun shines through a hole made in one of the boards to create negative pressure during abatement, creating a wash of orange on the walls.

Early morning light adds a yellow cast to some of the rooms. It is very dark inside the hospital, since most of the windows are boarded.

The hallway leading to the Northern grand stairwell.

The building was stabilized in 1989; while the stabilization has been largely successful, and there is little sign of imminent collapse, there has been some shifting. Hopefully, Steiner will quickly invest in re-stabilizing the building and patching the holes in the roof; water damage is becoming evident in a couple of areas.

The stabilized Northern stairwell.

A view up the stairwell showing stabilization beams.

The rooms have all been emptied of artifacts and abated; whitewash covers everything within, encapsulating the lead paint.

The light peeking in through a crack in a board creates a blue cast in this room. Photographing this hospital can be difficult - this was a 6.5 minute long exposure.

Most of the original lighting fixtures in the hospital were replaced by fluorescent fixtures as they came into vogue.

Hallway near the Southern stairwell; the original milk glass fixtures remain in place.

A typical patient room, illuminated by early morning light.

Nearly everything in the hospital - down to the radiators and light switches - was whitewashed. This is one of the few rooms where color is still visible beneath the white.

Even the doorknobs were whitewashed.

A typical dark room; the window being completely boarded over, the only light comes from the room across the hall.

Most rooms had fireplaces; many were removed and bricked over, presumably when it became illegal to use fireplaces in the Boroughs.

The central portion of the hospital, used for reception and internal functions. The hallways contain 18 foot high columns.

A breaker box in the basement allows the construction lights throughout the building to be turned on.

The rear of R95.

Building R1

Constructed 1864
Original designation: Surgeon's Residence
Final designation: Commandant's Residence

The beautiful French Second Empire styled Surgeon's Residence, with an elegant concave mansard roof, has been admirably preserved by the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation. Showing little sign of deterioration whatsoever, its interior details are remarkably intact.

The view from the main entrance to the residence.

The living room, with a view across the hall into the parlor.

The second floor hallway as seen from the landing.

Another view of this hallway.

Building RG

Constructed 1919
Original designation: Nurses Quarters
Final designation: Bachelor Officers' Quarters

This building, comprised of a central section and two perpendicular wings, was of a much more utilitarian construction than earlier buildings, and was heavily renovated when the campus became the NAVSTA Brooklyn support facility.

The main lobby, with stairs leading down to the Offficers' Bar and up to each wing.

What remains of the Officers' Bar.

Building RD

Constructed 1910
Original designation: Laboratory
Final designation: Bachelor Enlisted Quarters

Nearly pitch-black on the first two floors, the distinguishing feature of the old laboratory building are the extensive (and intact) skylights on the top floor. This would provide abundant natural light for surgeries and examinations.