Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Storefront wood-framed houses
Address: 104-106 South Oxford Street
Cross Streets: Fulton Street and Lafayette Avenue
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: Late 1860s
Architectural Style: Italianate
Architect: Builder perhaps Wright and Brook, who had offices here
The story: Fort Greene began as farmland, but by the 1840s, the four largest landowners began selling off more and more of it for residential development. By the Civil War, frame houses and small masonry buildings began being built on the newly laid out streets. The building boom in the neighborhood really took off after the war, as Brooklyn began spreading east towards Clinton Hill and Bedford. South Portland, South Oxford and Clermont Streets soon became the wealthy heart of the Fort Greene neighborhood. The buildings closer to Fulton Street were always a bit less grand, but South Oxford, near Fulton, was still a fine address to have.
These buildings were built as twins, probably just after the war. The first ads in the Brooklyn Eagle show up in 1867. They may have been built by Wright and Brook, builders. The houses may have originally been row houses without storefronts, but the storefronts were in place relatively early in the buildings’ histories. There are ads from 1867 advertising for servants and borders, and also ads in 1871 advertising for Wright and Brooks. In 1886, Mr. William W. Brook received a permit to put stone fronts on his carpenter’s shop at these addresses. It cost him $1,533.00
By 1888, some rooms in the 106 were being rented by the Brooklyn Women’s Christian Temperance Union. It’s unclear if they had the storefront, or rooms upstairs. They called their headquarters the “Union on the Hill.” They held meetings, rallies, luncheons and lectures here, all on the evils of drink. The W.C.T.U. occupied or shared this space through at least 1902, when reports about their activities seem to cease. The space may have been shared by the Christian Missionary Alliance, which included a Chinese Mission, as well as other Christian organizations and missions. They called their space in “106 Alliance Hall.” They were here in 1902 and 1903, at least. Upstairs or downstairs? The papers never mention what floor or floors they took up.
The Lowell Literary Society met at 104 S. Oxford in 1892 and a bit afterwards. But by the end of the 19th century, new tenants moved in. In 1897, the storefront was taken up by the Christian Science Dispensary. There is no other information about what they actually did here, as Christian Science generally does not dispense medicine. Other dispensaries listed in the annual list of charities in 1897 have long lists of what they gave out and to whom. This dispensary had no information at all. Perhaps that’s why they didn’t last long.
In 1896 the Union Republican Club called 104 their new home. The papers called them “one of the most aggressive and popular clubs of the city.” They also said that 104 was their new permanent home. In 1900, the 10th Assembly District Republican Club called 104 their clubhouse, too. They called it the “Assembly Room,” and they also rented it out to teacher’s organizations and other clubs. In fact, the address seems to have been a central location for many different Republican political clubs, all who called the building by different names, according to their own preferences.
The Republican clubs and the Temperance Ladies were next door to each other for several years. They must have been interesting neighbors. By 1915, the Republicans may have moved out, as they disappear from the papers. In fact, after 1915, the only references to either building were death notices of tenants, so the buildings may have gone residential. Until the modern day tenants, the buildings are totally off the radar, quietly passing from tenant to tenant, both residential and commercial. Only an in-depth physical search through records could tell us more. GMAP
(Photo: Nicholas Strini for PropertyShark)