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Miller Avenue Precinct

THE middle ages broke out all over Brooklyn around 1890, when George Ingram churned out medieval-style police stations like a ticket blitz; crenelations, spires and parapets made them redoubts of order in a changing city. But no fortification is perfect, and his two best designs are in peril

a view of the building when it was the 153rd Precinct

Ingram turned out another handful in 1891, most importantly the 17th Precinct, at Liberty and Miller Avenues, and the 18th, at Fourth Avenue and 43rd Street, both still standing. These represent a high-water mark for Ingram, postcard-quality castles with large corner turrets, deep and powerful entrance pavilions.  But no fortification is perfect, and his two best designs are in peril

After the 17th Precinct opened in 1892, its first prisoner was John Pocahontas Smith, arrested for drunkenness.

In 1896 the 17th was the site of an unclaimed-property auction: three horses, including a bay with a white star on the forehead, found abandoned on Ralph Avenue near Atlantic.

And an undercover officer of the 17th tracked down four policemen sleeping in a wallpaper factory when they were supposed to be on their nightly rounds.

Some of Ingram’s stations are still in police use, while others have been converted to other purposes. But his two most impressive, the 17th and 18th, are approaching ruin.

old 75th Precinct Station House (now vacant)

The 18th has been empty at least since July 26, 1987, when it was a subject for this column; the building was then attributed to Emile Gruwé. A fire destroyed the roof, rain and snow ruined the interior, and the building has bounced back and forth between city and community groups that seek to renovate it.

George Ingram’s 17th Precinct has suffered similarly. Owned for years by the People’s First Baptist Church, it has been vacant long enough for the windows to begin falling out.
It is painful to see its straw-colored brick with salmon trim peeling off the facade. The doorway is barricaded with rough wood aged by years of weather.

The 17th turns up on the Web site of someone who identifies herself only as “Lady Simone,” and she says that the church will soon turn it into a shelter for homeless, pregnant teens. There is neither an architect nor a renovation plan, and she is vague about money. But Lady Simone says that the renovation will start next year, adding: “Yes, we have the money, I see the money, because God has the money. It’s on faith.”


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