Made of limestone with French gothic influence, the mansion on the northeast corner of Willoughby Avenue at Nostrand Avenue in Bed-Stuy is a piece of history that needs protecting.

That’s why lifelong neighbors of the property are advocating for New York City Landmark Designation to protect its historical, architectural and cultural significance. On Tuesday, around 15 of those neighbors gathered on Zoom to get the ball rolling.

With landmark status the historical building would be protected from demolition, which will ensure no high-rise will be built in its place, protecting the natural sunlight the block receives.

441 Willoughby Ave. Photo: Anna Bradley-Smith for BK Reader.

Landmark status would also ensure that NYC’s Landmark Preservation Commission would have to approve any alteration, reconstruction or new construction affecting the building.

With this protected status, the owners of the building are also required by law to keep the building in good condition. The mansion, at over 12,000 square feet, could use some careful restoration.

“There’s a rumor that the mansion may have been sold, but it’s all speculation right now,” Lauren Cawdrey, neighbor and local business owner, said.  

“There’s no public information on the potential sale as of yet, but getting landmark status is just something that should happen anyway. It’s such a significant building, and there’s nothing like it around.”

Cawdrey owns and operates Willoughby General, a popular Bed-Stuy shop and cafe right near the historic building.

441 Willoughby

The building was most likely built by German American architect Theobald Engelhardt for a successful German grocer named Jacob Dangler at the turn of the 20th century.

Dangler specialized in provisions like deli meats and cheeses, and, due to his success in business, commissioned the ornate family home for his wife and three sons close to his factory.

The house belonged in Dangler’s prominent and involved Brooklyn family until 1941 when it was sold privately. About 20 years later it was sold to the Oriental Grand Chapter of the Eastern Star, a masonic organization founded in 1850 for both men and women, although now it is almost exclusively for women.

441 Willoughby Ave. Photo: Anna Bradley-Smith for BK Reader.

The mansion currently operates as a community center for neighborhood gatherings and its grandeur is a point of pride for the life-long neighbors.

“It’s where neighborhood meetings and events are hosted, and parties happen there on the weekends,” Cawdrey said. “It’s a total scene.”

“It’s important to note that there are several lifelong members who share in this concern,” Mike Porter said on the Zoom meetings. Porter’s wife grew up on the block.

Michael Williams, one of the meeting attendees, said he attended boy scout meetings in the mansion as a child.

“The outcry about the rumor has been overwhelming, from what I’ve seen,” Porter said.

One of the meeting attendees said she heard the group constructing the nearby community center at 184 Nostrand were also acquiring the mansion, but the origins of the rumor are unclear.

BK Reader reached out to the Department of Buildings for clarification and found that the DOB has not received any recent applications to significantly alter or change the use of  441 Willoughby Avenue. However, the building does have one active work permit to retrofit and replace light fixtures inside the building.

BK Reader has also reached out to the Department of Finance, which handles ownership and property sales information, as well as the LPC.

Getting landmark status is no small feat. Cawdrey and her neighbors will have to submit an application to the LPC. Once vetted, researched and approved, the neighborhood group can schedule a public hearing to make their case. After the public hearing, LPC will vote.

If the LPC votes to approve the landmark, the Commission then has to write a comprehensive report on the impacts of the designation to pass off to the City Council. Then, the City Council will have final say in whether the designation passes.

Though the block has only just begun the process of petitioning for landmark status, the initiative already has attention and support from local politicians like Chi Ossé, council member-elect for Bed-Stuy’s District 36.

“It’s been really affirming to have the support. The building — it’s just worth fighting for,” Cawdrey said. “Though we don’t even know if it’s a fight yet.”

Miranda Levingston

Covering everything Brooklyn. Twitter: @MLevNews

Join the Conversation

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  1. Hi – I just wanted to highlight an error in this piece. This paragraph is not quite right:
    “One of the meeting attendees said she heard the group renovating the nearby Transit Hall were also acquiring the mansion, but the origins of the rumor are unclear.”
    I am that person and I live in the what used to be the Transit Hall. It is not under renovation. I was speaking about the building at 184 Nostrand which is a new construction and will be a Community Center for the Hassidic community. 442 Willoughby is privately owned and unrelated except that it also used to be a spot for community events and also holds a piece of history for the neighborhood so we’re very concerned about the rumored sale of 441. Just wanted to clarify this. Thanks.

  2. The mansion is actually made of brick with some limestone accents. Were it “made of limestone”, it would be a completely different building.

  3. The building still has Masonic and Eastern Stars meeting there. What’s so disrespectful is how ppl walk off the street and walk the building and walk into rooms that meetings are being held!

  4. And this a private building owned by the United Grand Chapter! It is not a public or community building. Yes ppl can rent the grand ball room for functions! But this is private buildings

  5. I want to be a part of this building being save as a landmark. Its a part of Bed-Stuy history let’s not anyone destroy this property to put up another outfitted building. I have very sentimental values and memories in this building. I join the Fields of Morals (it’s a younger part of the Order of Eastern Stars) at this Temple this is where we held our meetings at every 3rd Saturday of the month and my wedding reception was held here and several family members birthday party and wedding reception also. So this is Historic not only for me but for everyone in BED-STUY.

  6. There are some really nice brownstone blocks over in that area. Some of those blocks need to be landmarked too. They’re just beautiful, Bed-Stuy Brooklyn tree lined blocks.

  7. This article is nice, but doesn’t mention that the building is almost all gutted and essentially abandoned. The facade is nice, but there’s very little to save inside.

  8. We will not be bought out by the greedy insatiable appetite for wealth Jews. If a community center is opened it will be for all children in the neighborhood

    1. It is not even clear that the property is being sold or who might be purchasing it. Your anti-Semitism is leaking out and dirtying a legitimate and informative discussion about saving a noteworthy and historic structure. The rallying point should not be let’s fight the Jews.

    2. Crystal Joseph: Your wonderful screen name appears to hide a considerable level of fear and hate.

      The issue here is one of saving an important landmark and community preservation, not to provide a forum for hate.

      I cannot imagine why you made such a comment. It is vile, and completely unacceptable on this forum, any other, or in our world.

      Your use of the English language is slightly stilted, so perhaps you are an immigrant from another nation.

      You welcome here, to join the many peoples who comprise our country’s remarkable population. All sorts of people from around the globe are welcome.

      However, tolerance of everyone else is a requirement for getting along in our nation. Yes, there is plenty of hatred scattered about, but it has no place in our society. Our national goal must be tolerance of everyone.

      If you do not like people of other faiths, nationalities, races, sexual orientations, or anyone I have forgotten to list, perhaps you should consider removing yourself to a country where hatred is welcome. Tragically there are many such places in the world for you to select from!

      1. I suppose you’re happy with paying rent every month to a fundamentalist religious sect which supports unspeakably brutal apartheid conditions in occupied Palestine

    3. Like the Antisemitism well-done keep with your great contribution to your community, I’m sure you are a great role model for others.

  9. Grew up in the neighborhood lived their from age 4 to 48.
    This building is a part of my life’s memories !!!

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