Capt. William Tumbridge, who was born in Cape Town in 1845 and who served in the Union Navy in the Civil War, built the original structure on the north side of Clark Street, between Hicks and Henry Streets, in 1885. The 10-story building, designed by Augustus Hatfield, must have been one of the tallest buildings in Brooklyn Heights.
In 1895, Tumbridge was fined $25 for slapping and punching Ira Morley, a broker, who had no money to pay his hotel bill. And in 1901 Tumbridge was arrested for disorderly conduct after assaulting a policeman in a quarrel on a Gates Avenue trolley car.
Like other hotels before the advent of the better-class apartment building, the St. George offered shelter to both transients and permanent residents. The 1905 census records the family of the prominent chinaware merchant Theodore Ovington, including his daughter Mary White Ovington, 40, a Radcliffe graduate. In 1909 she was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; in 1911 her book ''Half a Man'' cast light on the troubles of African-Americans. Tumbridge died in 1921, and the next year his family sold the St. George to the real estate development group Bing & Bing. In 1928 Bing & Bing added a giant revolving beacon on the roof, visible for 50 miles and meant to serve as a navigation marker for aircraft. The McAlpin and Beacon Hotels in Manhattan also had such beacons, although they were soon discontinued at the request of the government, which felt they might distract pilots.
IN 1974 The Times reported that half of the 2,100 rooms were being closed because of high fuel costs and that 600 permanent guests, who were paying up to $150 a month, were being consolidated into one part of the hotel.
At the same time the many elderly tenants still in the older hotel section were the victims of muggings by drug addicts and derelicts who had access to what had become one of the city's largest problem buildings, with a topless club called Wild Fyre on the ground floor.
The shell of a new building has risen on the Clark Street site. Gerard Vasisko, a partner with Gruzen Samton Architects, said his firm was not involved with the construction but did develop a contextual design for the empty lot for the owner, Moshe Drizen, ''picking up on the elements of the adjacent Clark Street building, with similar brick and window patterns.''