Building of the Day: 234 Clinton Street

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row house
Address: 234 Clinton Street
Cross Streets: Amity and Pacific Streets
Neighborhood: Cobble Hill
Year Built: 1884
Architectural Style: Late Italianate, with classical details
Architect: Fred Lockwood
Landmarked: Yes, part of Cobble Hill HD (1969)

The story: Cobble Hill is an elegant neighborhood, with fine examples of mid-19th century row house architecture on every block. Developed first as a suburban enclave for Manhattan businessmen, it soon became home to a varied collection of merchants, bankers and stock brokers. In 1858, the Long Island College Hospital was founded here, and it became a teaching hospital in 1860, which brought doctors and medical professionals into the neighborhood.

Both Brooklyn and Manhattan developers had a hand in shaping the neighborhood, so that by the 1880s most of the plots of land were filled, as speculative and commissioned housing rose. Unlike the mass, block-long developments elsewhere, Cobble Hill was developed in small groups, a couple of houses at a time. Numbers 234 and 236 Clinton Street came along quite late, in 1884, and are among the most elegant and attractive houses on this block.

The Italianate style had its peak in the 1860s, and styles had moved on, but Fred Lockwood, a local architect, still referenced the style here, but with an updated touch. The ornament is more refined, more classical, but has the Italianate heavy cornices, as well as detailed window lintels on brackets and a sophisticated entryway with brownstone pilasters and brackets. Lockwood, who did a great job here, mixed brownstone with brick and terra-cotta, creating more subtle color and texture. He added all kinds of goodies to the façade, with fine detailing everywhere, making the houses quite noticeable, in all the right ways, from the street.

One of the early owners, perhaps the first owner of the house, was Doctor Algernon T. Bristow. He was a Yale graduate, and got his medical degree in 1876 from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia. He was senior surgeon at the Long Island College Hospital and professor of surgery at LICH. In 1901, he was elected president of the Brooklyn Medical Society, and was also the editor of the New York Medical Journal. Dr. Bristow also was a visiting surgeon at Long Island College, Kings County and St. John’s Hospitals, and consulting surgeon at Long Island State, Swedish, Coney Island and Brooklyn Hospitals.

With all of his expertise and experience, Dr. Bristow was only human. On March 12, 1913, he accidentally pricked his finger while operating on a woman, and it later became infected. He was being treated by three of LICH’s top doctors, who thought they had halted the infection. On March 24, the New York Times announced that he was getting better. Two days later, he died of blood poisoning, here at his home. He was 62 years old. Ironically, he was the third doctor that month to be infected by a cut during surgery. Another doctor, also in Brooklyn, almost died when he sliced his arm during surgery. The third doctor, who was in Chicago, recovered, just barely. Today, 234 Clinton Street is home to four families. GMAP
(Photograph: Nicholas Strini for PropertyShark, 2012)

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