In November 2012, Jehovah’s Witnesses sold the Bossert Hotel. The keys were turned over to the new owner, and like countless guests, the Witnesses checked out and walked away. The funds from the sale will be used to further the worldwide work of Bible education of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Witnesses sold the 14-story Italian-Renaissance-style building because their headquarters staff will be moving out of Brooklyn, New York, and relocating to new facilities in Warwick, New York. This move is expected to take several years.
A Hundred-Year History
Louis Bossert, a New York lumber merchant, built the Bossert in 1909. It was to be an “apartment hotel,” housing both transient and permanent residents. Because it filled quickly, he constructed an addition in 1914, which nearly doubled the size of the building. A rooftop restaurant called the Marine Roof was added in 1916.
During the 1980’s, Jehovah’s Witnesses bought the building and renovated it to meet the needs of those of their headquarters staff who would live there. Workers converted the ballrooms into dining rooms and the rooftop restaurant into an informal lounge for the residents and their guests.
Since 2010, the building has accommodated Jehovah’s Witnesses visiting from all over the world who have come to tour the headquarters facilities.
The new owner is planning to renovate the building and operate it as a hotel. The conversion of the Bossert from modest studio and one-bedroom apartments to a luxury hotel will be made easier by the excellent condition of the building.
Restoring the Magnificence
Before Jehovah’s Witnesses moved into the Bossert, it was suffering from years of neglect. Its white exterior was dirty, and the massive terra-cotta cornice molding that ran along the top of the building was broken and structurally unsound. The windows were old and drafty. Pigeons were the only patrons at the Marine Roof. So a huge renovation project was begun. Jehovah’s Witnesses from all over the United States donated their time and skills to the project, which was completed in 1991.
During the renovation, the Witnesses cleaned and repaired the limestone and granite exterior of the building. They replaced the cornice molding with an exact replica molded from lightweight fiberglass. They installed new mahogany windows.
They also completely renovated the interior of the building, giving special attention to the once beautiful lobby. To repair damaged marble walls, they obtained stone from the original quarry in Italy. Workers also restored the ceiling’s ornate plasterwork that had been damaged by water.
The massive iron columns in the lobby posed a real challenge. They were originally finished in scagliola, an Italian plastering technique that mimics the appearance of marble. However, they had been painted over many times by previous owners. None of the volunteer workers knew the techniques for applying scagliola. A nearby university library supplied a book containing procedures for creating this artificial marble. Armed with that information, workers spent weeks restoring the finish on the columns to one that very closely matched the appearance of the originals.
When the renovation was complete in 1991, the building was both practical and beautiful. In recognition of the effort, the Bossert was awarded the Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award for outstanding preservation work.