Brooklyn Flea Market in the Williamsburg Savings Bank

Black and white bank lobby

For some time now the Williamsburg Savings Bank has been shuttered for renovation.

I’d heard that the whole building, from the iconic clock tower (biggest in the world apparently) on down to the old bank lobby, was to be turned into condos and living spaces for the rich. I’d look out on that iconic tower, visible from pretty much anywhere in downtown Brooklyn, with some sadness, thinking it would be one more New York space which I’d only have access to from a distance. This summer, I looked over Nathan Kensinger’s photo essay of the still-being-renovated building and wondered if the public would ever have access to these spaces.

But thanks to a Brit in Brooklyn posting the week before, I found it that the newly renovated bank lobby is the winter home of the Brooklyn Flea Market.

Stained glass windows

And my, what a lobby . . .

I used to bank here, coming in to change money or even use the ATM, just for the chance to gaze up at the exquisite mosaic ceilings, or be served at the old-time metal teller grates. You felt like you’d stepped back in time – and indeed the bank, if not the building, had the feeling of being marooned in time since the Hanson Place of that pre-Atlantic Terminal era had a desolate, edge of the world feeling, a last repository of the near-abandonment which had once engulfed downtown Brooklyn. The destruction of the old Atlantic Station in the late 80’s, I’m sure, played a part, but apparently the bank tower, built in 1929 has been an analomy since its inception in 1929, when it was assumed that many like buildings would go up aside it. Alas, the Great Depression then central Brooklyn’s post-war decline put paid to that.

Chandelier and ceiling

I’ve read (I can’t find the freakin’ links now) that the hall is marketed as a venue for luxury acts, so I’m a little unclear what its long-term function will be. Apparently, the spaces behind the teller grates are to be reented out for retail, though there are no takers yet. Cultural ‘industries’ like Bomb magazine have rented out office space in the upper floors, and BAM has some kind of presence. Let’s hope this magnificent and historic lobby remains a public venue for years to come.

Teller windows Creative use of old teller windows

last stop


  1. Beautiful space indeed. It’s mind numbing when you realize those sculptured columns and archways are supporting that massive building above. Cathedral-like is how I think of the Williamsburg Bank interior. Great pics I gotta run down there next Flea date. Thanks!

    • Thanks for the comment. Cathedral indeed . . . Funny, I hadn’t even thought about the columns and archways supporting everything upstairs – that really is amazing! I wonder how far down into the ground they go? The Flea is on every weekend, 10 I believe to 6. Pretty good food in the bank vault downstairs but hey, they could be serving MacDonalds and I’d still drop in for the chance to be amidst that splendour.

  2. That is an incredible looking building. I used to live in Dublin, Ireland, and those pics reminded my of several inner-city banks (hundreds of years old I suspect) I visited and banked at.

    • Hi Melany,

      Thanks for the comment. It is an incredible place. Banks as cathedrals. Curiously, the banks in Canada have this same cathedral like quality, often the grandest buildings in the city.


  3. I collect a lot of collectible glass myself and found this to be really enlightening. Where could I go to find out more information about this?

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