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February 5th, 2010, 4:22 pm
The former Gage & Tollner restaurant on Fulton Street near Brooklyn’s Borough Hall is now the most beautiful Arby’s in the world, thanks in large part to its designation as both an exterior and interior landmark. Gage & Tollner was nominated to the Census of Places that Matter because for over 100 years it “gave diners a taste of old Brooklyn”. Although Gage & Tollner closed in 2004, its Victorian interior remains intact and open to the public, now as home of Brooklyn’s first Arby’s.
The restaurant that became Gage & Tollner was originally opened by Charles M. Gage in 1879. When Gage partnered with Eugene Tollner a few years later, the restaurant was renamed for the two of them. In 1892, Gage & Tollner moved from its original location near present-day Cadman Plaza to the 1870s Italianate row house at 372 Fulton Street. The building’s wooden Neo-Grec storefront, which is still intact, was likely added at this time. Gage & Tollner’s clientele were among Brooklyn and Manhattan’s elite, and throughout the next century, the restaurant was renowned for its food quality and excellent service. The Landmarks Preservation Commission’s 1974 designation report for the building’s exterior refers to Gage & Tollner as “one of Brooklyn’s best known restaurants.”
In a city where restaurants seem to come and go constantly, Gage & Tollner’s elegant interior and exterior appearance, superior service, and excellent food remained constant for over a century. The Landmarks Preservation Commission’s 1975 designation report for the restaurant’s interior quotes then-Brooklyn Borough Historian, Joseph Palisi, as praising Gage & Tollner’s reputation. He stated that the restaurant embodied “exquisite food, excellent service and a sense of timelessness through which something of a carefully preserved past is made to contribute to the fullest enjoyment of the present.”
Gage & Tollner is one of only two New York City interior landmark spaces that were built exclusively as restaurants (the other is the Four Seasons restaurant, designed by Philip Johnson). Although landmark designation cannot control which establishments occupy landmarks or how these spaces are used, it does regulate what changes can be made to the protected architectural features. Therefore, when Gage & Tollner closed in 2004 due to dwindling business, its 1890s appearance was not destroyed by either the TGI Friday’s, which occupied the space until 2007, or the newly-opened Arby’s (pictured to the left).
To read the full nomination for Gage and Tollner, log on to Place Matters. Please tell your friends about these places of history, memory, and culture and invite them to join the Place Matters e-mail list.
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