552-554 Atlantic Avenue and 542 Atlantic Avenue

Henry I. Oser, 1928
c. 1925

The Art Deco store and office building at 552-554 Atlantic Avenue was originally called the Gross Building, after its first owner, realtor Joseph M. Gross. The six-story building replaced a group of mid-19th century rowhouses. Its original tenants were real estate companies, trade union offices and lawyers. Since 1977, it has been home to a mosque, cultural center and related stores. The building is clad in white glazed terra-cotta and features neo-Classical details, like swags, garlands, grand arches and pilasters. Next door, the U.S. Post Office Times Plaza Station at 542 Atlantic Avenue is a civic building with elaborate brickwork. Its upper floor once housed the headquarters of the Brooklyn Local 361 of the Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Ironworkers’ Union. Beginning in the 1920s, a group of men from Mohawk reservations in Quebec came to New York looking for work during the steel construction boom. After a landmark court case in 1926 recognized the Mohawk as a separate nation with rights to move freely between the United States and Canada, many Mohawks came to the city, settling in Boerum Hill and joining the union (it is believed that the presence of the headquarters at 542 Atlantic Avenue was the reason for their settlement in this part of the city). When the building boom came to an end in the late 1950s, the Mohawks began to move elsewhere, and the community dwindled. However, through some of its buildings, this part of Brooklyn still tells their story. Hank’s Saloon, at 46 Third Avenue, was formerly The Doray Tavern, a popular Mohawk hang-out, and Cuyler Presbyterian Church at 360 Pacific Street (now a private residence) offered services in the Iroquois language