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Photograph: Kelsey Dubinsky

We went on a harrowing journey to the top of one of Brooklyn’s most spectacular buildings

By
Will Gleason
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One of the most eye-catching features of the former headquarters of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank—now an event space called Weylin—is the breathtaking great dome that hovers over the main banking hall. 

The colorful masterpiece, which was designed (along with the rest of the interiors) by Peter B. Wight in 1875, must have been a huge part of what the Landmarks Preservation Commission had in mind when they officially designated the building’s interior a landmark in 1996.

At the time they described it as “one of the most monumental public spaces surviving in New York from the post-Civil War era.”

Photograph: Kelsey Dubinsky

What almost no one gets to see is the other side of that soaring dome: the rooftop and small cupola with one-of-a-kind views of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Luckily, we were fortunate enough to take a (kind of scary) journey up to the historic, off-limits cupola along with one of the masterminds behind the building’s award-winning 2013 restoration, Carlos Perez San Martin.

See photos from our tour of the landmark—and trip up to its lofty heights—below.

The building's three-year restoration was completed in December 2013 and restored every interior surface in the building, including marble, frescoes, bronze, gold leaf, sandstone and wood. The floor is made of hand-cut mosaic marble and consists of over two million pieces.

Photograph: Kelsey Dubinksy

An addition to the main banking hall was added in 1908 to let women bank separately. The roof of that room features an oculus of stained-glass skylights that was dismantled during World War II. The restoration team discovered parts of it stored in boxes in the basement.

Photograph: Kelsey Dubinsky

An archway cut between the two halls allowed bank staff to travel back and forth.

Photograph: Kelsey Dubinsky

The original safe has also been restored. An 1873 design award that the device won in Paris has been fused to the inside of its door. The names of the Board of Trustees are located above.

Photograph: Kelsey Dubinsky

A (very steampunk) tube-based intercom system allowed staff to speak to each other from different parts of the building. The tubes for the bank's president and janitor are located right next to each other, most likely resulting in a number of mishaps.

Photograph: Kelsey Dubinsky

Almost every doorknob and hinge in the building is decorated with the bank's logo. They really went for it.

Photograph: Kelsey Dubinsky

After you walk up a wrought-iron staircase to the top floor, a small, wooden door opens to the narrow passageway leading to the building's roof. 

Photograph: Kelsey Dubinsky

From the sloping roof, a rusting spiral staircase brings you to the dark crawl space above the dome. If you're not too afraid of heights and manage to make it to the top that is. 

Photograph: Kelsey Dubinsky

Curving stairs directly over the grand dome lead to the final climb up to the cupola, as well as complete and utter darkness.

Photograph: Kelsey Dubinsky

One last spiral staircase emerges into the center of the cupola, offering stunning views of New York that almost rival the meticulously restored interior.

Photograph: Kelsey Dubinsky

Photograph: Kelsey Dubinsky

Photograph: Kelsey Dubinsky

Photograph: Kelsey Dubinsky

Photograph: Kelsey Dubinsky

Photograph: Kelsey Dubinsky

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