Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Row houses
Address: 301-311 Garfield Place
Cross Streets: Eighth Avenue and Prospect Park West
Neighborhood: Park Slope
Year Built: 1892
Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival/Queen Anne
Architect: Magnus Dahlander
Other Work by Architect: Similar row houses in Stuyvesant Heights, Bedford Stuyvesant, Prospect Heights, and Crown Heights North
Landmarked: Yes, part of Park Slope HD (1973)
The story: Architect Magnus Dahlander only lived in Brooklyn for eight years. He came here in 1888, set up his practice, and left in 1896, going back to his native Sweden. We don’t have any personal records of his time here, so we don’t know exactly why he went back home. Perhaps he didn’t like America all that much, we don’t know how well he spoke English, or if he had a wife and children back home, perhaps he missed just missed Sweden. What we do know is that in the short time he was here, he made his mark on Brooklyn’s architectural landscape, and on the streetscape, as well. A surprisingly many of his buildings still survive, and there really isn’t one that’s not an attractive, and interesting building.
This group is sort of in the middle of Dahlander’s architectural journey through Brooklyn. He built mostly in the up and coming new neighborhoods that were being developed by some of the most successful developers of the day, such as Walter F. Clayton, John Bliss, and William Reynolds. Their houses were all speculative, built in the upper middle class neighborhoods of Bedford, Stuyvesant Heights, the St. Marks District, Prospect Heights, and Park Slope.
This group was designed and built in 1892, the same year Dahlander designed the 33 house row on Bainbridge Street in Stuyvesant Heights, for Walter Clayton. These six houses were built for developer Wesley C. Bush, who lived over in Prospect Heights. There is the inevitable similarity to some of the Bainbridge houses, but like all of Dahlander’s work, he strove to make each as individual as possible within the restraints of the lot size, and materials and budget.
The six houses here are in two groups. The first three are three stories over a high basement, unified with a running cornice across the group. The second group of three is slightly higher, with attic windows, but they also share the same pressed metal cornice pattern as the first three, just one of the ways Dahlander united the entire group.
All six of the stoops and basement stories all line up as well, creating a unified line down the street, and all have small double window transoms above the parlor floor windows. But then he imbues each house with its own personality, mixing up ornamentation around the doorways, and above, a riot of massing, with oriels, rounded bays, three sided bays, and all kinds of windows and ornamental terra cotta and/or carved stone to make each house individual and interesting. I never get tired of Dahlander’s work.
Early owners of the houses included Postmaster Francis H. Wilson, in number 301, and Halsey Fitch, a prominent member of the NY Produce Exchange, who lived and died in 307. His funeral was here. The wedding of the daughter of Henry Irving took place in 303.
Magnus Dahlander partnered with two different men in his stay here: fellow Swede Axel Hedman, and Brooklynite Frederick B. Langston. Their partnerships produced some stellar row houses and flats buildings in the aforementioned neighborhoods. But in 1898, Magnus packed up his stuff and sailed back to Sweden, where he had a long and award winning career. He may not be a household name here, except among us Brooklyn architecture geeks, but in Sweden, he is textbook and guidebook material. Two nations, two separate careers, two totally different bodies of work. He died in 1951, leaving a great legacy on two continents. GMAP