Williamsburgh Trust Company Building (later Holy Trinity Cathedral) Historic District

STATUS Designated Historic District

177-185 South 5th Street

ARCHITECT: Helmle, Huberty & Hudswell

DATE: 1905-06

STYLE: Neo-Classical

Brooklyn Neo-Classical Williamsburg

Completed in 1906, the Williamsburgh Trust Company Building is a monumental neo-Classical style bank building recalling Williamsburg’s industrial prosperity of the 19th and early 20th centuries and the historic role of the building’s surrounding area as a commercial and financial hub serving Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick.

Designed by Helmle, Huberty & Hudswell, major Brooklyn architects who designed some of the borough’s most significant early-20th century banks and park structures, it initially served as headquarters of the Williamsburgh Trust Company, which enjoyed considerable financial success following its 1899 founding. It is a superlative example of the luxurious “banking temples” constructed in Manhattan and Brooklyn starting in the late 19th century, featuring classical porticos with acroteria on its two street facades, as well as a saucer dome recalling that of the Pantheon.

Originally intended to stand in isolation, the building is remarkable for its four fully developed classical facades as well as its unusual facing material of white terra-cotta. The building’s opulent design and prominent location at the entrance of the then-new Williamsburg Bridge drew admiration from the press, which described it as a “superb new edifice” that was both “extravagant and palatial.”

Shortly after the building’s opening, the Williamsburgh Trust Company was rocked by the Panic of 1907, and it served its last customer in 1910. Five years later, the building was acquired by the City of New York as part of a broad effort to reform the city’s court system and improve Brooklyn’s courthouses, and from 1916 to 1958, it served as Magistrates’ Court for the Fifth District of Brooklyn.

The building’s cross-shaped plan and central dome made it attractive for conversion to an Orthodox church, and in 1961, it was acquired by the Holy Ukrainian Autocephalic Orthodox Church in Exile, which renovated it to serve as its Holy Trinity Cathedral. Since then, the church has diligently and sensitively maintained the building, enabling this lavish structure to endure as one of Williamsburg’s most prominent and imposing landmarks.

STATUS Designated Historic District

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Local Voices

“I don’t know what the City would be without HDC. [They] testified before LPC time after time and helped us focus on the right issues. We would not be an historic district without HDC! ”

Doreen Gallo: DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance

Local Voices

“Use HDC as a resource because they know what they are doing and can offer advice on how to go about creating a district from every front: architectural, political, LPC, and the media. I had floundered prior to my involvement with this invaluable organization.”

Fern Luskin: Lamartine Place Historic District; Friends of Lamartine Place & Gibbons Underground Railroad Site

Local Voices

“HDC provided guidance and shared information during that process—we knew which Council members were going one way or another and we changed a few minds. I don’t think NoHo would have had as cohesive a district had it not been for HDC’s aid.”

Zella Jones: NoHo Historic District; NoHo East; and NoHo Extension

Local Voices

“I remember Richard saying at a meeting, we have someone here from HDC, Nadezhda Williams, Director of Preservation and Research, to help us. She said to us, ‘You are not the only ones going through this.’ HDC included us in an enormous community”

Erika Petersen: West End Preservation Society