At the intersection of 4th Avenue and President Street, in Brooklyn’s sleepy Gowanus neighborhood, stands the Brooklyn Lyceum. Built in 1906 and entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, the structure has served several purposes throughout its illustrious century-long history. Trace it below.
Construction and Architectural Style
Prolific Beaux-Arts era architect Raymond F. Almirall, known for designing Brooklyn’s Central Library and Former Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank, is the genius behind the Brooklyn Lyceum. Almirall was commissioned to construct a public bathhouse in the Renaissance Revival Style. The structure’s most prominent feature is its detailed and elaborate facade, featuring images of Poseidon’s father Triton, dolphins, and urns of flowing water.
Public Bathhouse #7
The Brooklyn Lyceum was the seventh and final bathhouse to be built as part of New York City’s public bath experiment. At the time it opened to the public in 1910, Public Bathhouse #7 had the largest indoor pool in the country, the only plunge pool at a New York public bath, and 100 showers. Updated tenement laws passed while the bathhouse was under construction dampened demand for public baths, but the building remained a public bathhouse until the 1930s.
The WPA Years
After several years of renovations under the Works Progress Administration, city planner Robert Moses reopened the structure as a gymnasium in 1937, a purpose the Lyceum would hold for several decades. The gym contained a basketball court and running track.
Designation on National Register of Historic Places and Recent Development
After being designated a historic place, the building at 227 4th Avenue was sealed and abandoned for nearly a decade. In 1994, it reopened as the Brooklyn Lyceum, an unconventional performance arts and cultural center. Today, it hosts concerts and other events. It also serves as a gym. The Brooklyn Lyceum was purchased by real estate developer Greystone for $7.6 million in 2014. The Lyceum has continued to operate a gym and serve as a performance space, but it is unclear whether that will remain the case.
From public bathhouse to quirky performance space, The Brooklyn Lyceum has fulfilled several roles over the past century. If you’d like to check it out while visiting Brooklyn, it’s a 10-minute drive from NU Hotel Brooklyn. Even if no performances are being held, you can admire the structure’s impressive facade before strolling through Brooklyn’s beautiful Prospect Park.