Watchtower Bible and Tract Society puts historic hotel up for sale

The historic Hotel Bossert, where the Brooklyn Dodgers celebrated their first and last World Series championship more than a half-century and many bittersweet memories ago, is being put up for sale.

The building’s owner — the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York — said it was not setting a price, but would establish a bidding process that would extend over several months.

The building’s sale is the latest in a series of real estate divestments by the society that began, in part, to take advantage of the thriving real estate market in New York City.

The society is the corporation used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses for their business operations. Their international headquarters, at 25 Columbia Heights, and the large Watchtower sign atop it are prominent features of the Brooklyn waterfront.

The society began leasing space for its staff in the former Hotel Bossert (pronounced BOSS-urt), at 98 Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights, in 1983 and bought the building in 1988 for an undisclosed price. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are also moving some of their operations outside Brooklyn and therefore need less residential space in New York, officials said.

Richard Devine, the building manager for the society, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that the old hotel was “in very poor condition when we bought it.” The society then began an extensive renovation of the 14-story building.

Mr. Devine declined to estimate the cost of the renovation of the Italian Renaissance Revival-style building, with its white pillars and crystal chandeliers, but said it was “in the millions.”

Over the years, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have used all but six of the 224 apartments in the former hotel to house church members and staff. Six tenants who have lived there since before the society bought it are expected to remain after the sale, Mr. Devine said.

The Bossert was built by Louis Bossert, a Brooklyn lumber magnate, as an apartment hotel in 1909, the same year that the Jehovah’s Witnesses moved their headquarters to Brooklyn.

Known as the Waldorf-Astoria of Brooklyn, the hotel was famous in the 1920s for its Marine Roof, a two-level rooftop restaurant with a commanding view of Manhattan.

When the Brooklyn Dodgers won the 1955 World Series against the Yankees, delirious Dodgers fans celebrated on Montague and Hicks Streets. In the lobby of the Hotel Bossert, they bellowed “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” for Walter Alston, the Dodgers’ manager.

In 1958, the team became the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday January 31, 2008.
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