The strength and depth of your knowledge of Brooklyn’s architectural roots, history, and the cultural relevance of such is directly correlated with your status as a Brooklynite and more importantly a measure of just how “hip” you are. And you are hip right? Just kidding, we don’t really care, and hopefully you don’t really either, but with Open House New York tours going on next weekend, you can get hip to some of Brooklyn’s best kept secrets. OHNY tours will open the doors to some of Brooklyn’s most interesting and historically notable sites, and invite you to appreciate learning cool new things while listening to experts enlighten you in areas outside of your usual knowledge.
On the weekend of October 11-12 the 12th Annual OHNY will grant the public free access to over 300 buildings and sites of historical and cultural significance throughout all five boroughs. Some locations feature guided tours with architects and experts sharing relevant site specific information while others grant “open access” for you to explore at your own pace. Most of the weekend is free, but some of the more popular sites require reservations for a modest fee of $5. Ye be warned; these will fill up fast, very fast, so be ready when advance registration for reservations opens at 11am on October 1, right here.
With so much to see and do in so little time though, we’ve compiled a list of 10 of our favorite tours to take right here in Brooklyn.
1. Weylin B. Seymour’s
Originally built as the Williamsburgh Savings Bank in 1875, this groundbreaking architectural masterpiece set the standard and paved the way for American architecture post Reconstruction, proving that Williamsburg has been hip since before you were born. Check out the decadent and rich interior of what is now a center for cultural and social events. Open Sunday 12pm-6pm, 175 Broadway in Williamsburg.
2. Wyckoff House Museum
The oldest standing Dutch colonial structure in New York, this dinosaur of a building dates back to 1652. Open Saturday and Sunday from 10am-6pm, with tours at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm. You’ll feel like the Counting Crows hanging out in New Amsterdam. 5816 Clarendon Road in East Flatbush.
3. Waterfront Museum
This 100 year old Lehigh Valley Railroad barge is from the “Lighterage Era” (1860-1960) and is the last of its kind. Now a museum, check out the O.G. part barge on Saturday between 1pm and 5pm with tours throughout the day, 290 Conover Street in Red Hook.
4. Floyd Bennet Field Ryan Visitor Center
The Ryan Visitor Center originally served as the terminal for NYC’s first municipal airport opened in 1931 you’ll love this place so much, you’ll want to move in a la Tom Hanks in The Terminal (unfortunately you can’t because it closes at 5pm), but I promise it will be much more exciting than the movie. Open Sunday 10am-5pm with tours at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm. 1 Ryan Center, 50 Aviation Road in Marine Park.
5. GUPBO – Go Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
This walking tour takes you through the historic Greenpoint neighborhood with a guide who explains the environmental catastrophes that changed life in the northern-most point in Brooklyn, and the architecture that changed with the culture of its people. Make a reservation ahead of time, and then get ready to meet in front of St. Anthony’s Church at 11am on Saturday.
6. Brooklyn Historical Society
This 19th century building is a museum and library which in itself is worth the trip, but it also houses not only a truss system guaranteed to make your architecture-obsessed friends start breathing heavily, but also the original set of the TV classic “The Honeymooners.” One of these days Alice! Saturday 12-5pm, 128 Pierrepoint Street in Brooklyn Heights.
7. Red Hook Initiative
This building was erected wayyyy back in 2010, but while it doesn’t hold a candle to the other buildings on the list when it comes to age, it does holds a solar panel. Check out this community center’s creative new green design on from Saturday 12pm-5pm and Sunday 1pm-5pm with tours first come first serve. 767 Hicks Street in Red Hook.
The building’s architecture is from 1918, but the highlight here is the ability to get a look behind the scenes look at the 17,000-square foot glassmaking studio, the country’s largest publicly accessible studio of its kind. Just remember what they say about glass houses and stone, and remember to snag a reservation. Saturday 1pm, 647 Fulton Street in Fort Greene.
9. Empire Stores
The Empire Stores strike back! This massive complex in Brooklyn Bridge Park is in the process of renovation slated to be completed in 2015. Part of OHNY’s open dialogue series, you have to make reservations for this tour which will take you through the building’s history and into the future.
10. PS 83
What would a list of historical buildings in Brooklyn be without a public school? Probably a list for idiots, or at least the unlearned. Follow the dark days of Brooklyn’s history in one of the borough’s schools for “colored students” back when segregation was in effect. Currently featuring an exhibit by Bradford Young as part of Weeksville Heritage Center and Creative Time’s multi-site initiative “Funk, God, Jazz, and Medicine.” Saturday and Sunday 12-6pm, 1630 Dean Street in Bed Stuy.
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