As long as we’ve lived in Williamsburg there has been a decrepit tin-sided house on Roebling at the head of Fillmore Place. The pitched roof has been sagging for over 15 years, and the siding has been slowly peeling away all that time. To us, it was always the Firpo Building, so named for its sole distinguishing feature, a Kenn Firpo Realty billboard. It never seemed that Firpo was selling the building, just using using it for free advertising. Maybe he owned it, maybe it was his office once upon a time.
Back then, Kenn Firpo was the main source (other than the bulletin boards on Bedford) for rental “apartments” in northside and southside Williamsburg. We use quotes, because many of the rentals were clearly not intended for human habitation. Most of the now-thriving commercial spaces in the Grand Street area, for instance, were once rented out as apartments. Most of them to friends of ours. We had one friend who rented a windowless basement apartment in a loft building through Firpo (it was actually a nice and spacious place, despite its bunker-like qualities).
As we have been out of the rental market for awhile, and most of friends have moved on to more affordable parts of the country, we have no idea if Firpo has been the unavoidable force in local real lately that he was in the 1990s. But back then, he downright unavoidable. Still, it always struck us as a questionable move for someone selling real estate to take such a prominent advertisement on a crumbling wreck of a building.
So it brought a small (OK, really small) pang of nostalgia when we passed by in early September and saw that the Firpo building was being prepped for demolition. Last week, the demo finally came (sniff).
No sooner did the Firpo building come down than did we hear that Firpo himself might be going down. In the middle of last week, a sign appeared on Firpo’s almost brand-new offices at Bedford and N8 advertising office furniture for sale. Two days later, the office was empty and locked tight, and sign in the window directed patrons to call a number.
So was the demolition of the Firpo building really foreshadowing the fall of the house of Firpo? Whither Kenn Firpo Realty?