Building of the Day: 385 Henry Street

Photo by Susan De Vries

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: mixed-use commercial/residential building

Address: 385 Henry Street
Cross Streets: Corner Warren Street
Neighborhood: Cobble Hill
Year Built: 1871
Architectural Style: Italianate
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: Yes, part of Cobble Hill HD (1969)

The story: This building is such a neighborhood anomaly. For far too many people today, a building’s worth is measured in terms of potential FAR, so the mere sight of this fabulously wide and low, two-story building must fill them with aggravation every time they pass it. “If only it wasn’t landmarked! Think of the condo we could build here!” Well, too bad. This little 19th century gem is going to stay just as it is.

The LPC records are not very much help here, but we do know that this corner building was built in 1871. Further research in city directories might tell us if it was always a building of shops, or if it had a less glamorous beginning as a series of stables, or some other service for the very wealthy people who lived nearby. I’m guessing stables. The ground floor saw a lot of changes before the building was included in Cobble Hill’s historic district in 1969, also a time when research materials were not as accessible as they are now.

No matter its origins, what a fine building this is. The builder may have only been providing a service building of some sort, but he designed it to complement the mansions and fine row houses in the neighborhood. The most distinctive features are the segmental-arched dentil brick lintels on the second floor windows, and the cornice, which has amazingly survived intact all around the wide façade of the building, on both street fronts. Necessary for a stable – no, but thank you for doing it, none the less.

The first floor is now home to several shops, and the second floor has at least one or more apartments. At 65×40, with all of those windows, the second floor would make a fabulous apartment or two. I’d love it. The building is not fancy; it’s not innovative or special in an architectural way. It’s just a good older former utilitarian building that is part of a larger historic area, and as such, contributes to the overall ambiance of the neighborhood. Cobble Hill is lucky to have it. GMAP

Photo: Nicholas Strini for Property Shark, 2012

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