Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Who doesn’t love this colorful, perfectly sized and proportioned Victorian Flatbush house? It is one of many built by developer and architect T.B. Ackerson in suburban Flatbush.
Name: Single-family detached wood-frame house
Address: 317 Rugby Road
Cross Streets: Beverley and Cortelyou roads
Neighborhood: Beverley Square West (part of Victorian Flatbush)
Year Built: 1902
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: Thomas Benton Ackerson
Other works by architect: Almost all of the houses in Beverley Square West, as well as houses in Beverley Square East and Fiske Terrace
Landmarked: No, but part of a proposed and long-overdue Victorian Flatbush Historic District
Although parts of the suburban neighborhoods we collectively call Victorian Flatbush are landmarked, there are large parts that are not. Many of them contain exceptionally fine residential architecture; some designed by and built by the same men who created their landmarked neighbors.
Efforts are still underway to petition the LPC to protect these neighborhoods, all of which contain homes that have already been torn down for new construction, or architecturally re-muddled beyond recognition.
None of the neighborhoods in Victorian Flatbush developed on their own, or without plan. All had the guiding hand of a visionary planner and developer. They built for profit, but they also wanted to create beautiful neighborhoods that would be their legacy. All succeeded.
Page of sales brochure for Beverley Square, via beverleysquarewest.org
Thomas Benton Ackerson, the developer of the Beverley Squares
The guiding hand behind Beverley Square West was Thomas Benton Ackerson, an experienced real estate salesman and architect. He also created Beverley Square East and Fiske Terrace.
All of the Victorian Flatbush neighborhoods were built in the last days of the 19th century on through the first decade of the 20th. Large plots of land were for sale, all sold by the descendants of the old Dutch farming families that had settled here in the late 1600s.
Ackerson had been planning his Flatbush community since 1898. He purchased the Catherine Lott farm and began planning his Beverley Square communities.
Beverley Square East was first, parts of it developed solely by Ackerson, with the rest planned in partnership with veteran Flatbush developers Lewis Pound and Delbert Decker.
Ackerson’s first houses were too big and expensive, so he turned to Pound and Decker to develop the rest of the neighborhood with smaller and less expensive houses.
Photo by Suzanne Spellen
By the time he began planning Beverley Square West Ackerson knew exactly what he wanted and how to best accomplish his goal. He would have unique houses, but they would be much more modest in size and scope.
His goal was to create a neighborhood where no two houses were alike. The houses would be spacious and detached, with fireplaces and beamed ceilings on the inside and colorful stained glass windows opening up onto the street.
Interior fireplace in Rugby Gardens. Photo via Trip Advisor
Many have Ackerson’s trademark Palladian windows, spacious front porches and large exterior columns, often with lots of ornament and trim.
He was so proud of his Beverley Square West development that he moved here, living at 304 Marlborough Road in a house he built in 1903. It is, of course, one of that block’s more noticeable homes.
Many of the streets in the Beverleys share street names with the more prosperous Prospect Park South. It was actually Ackerson who petitioned to rename East 13th, 14th and 15th streets with the much more posh and plummy Argyle, Rugby and Marlborough roads.
Photo by Suzanne Spellen
Early Homeowners of 317 Rugby Road
317 Rugby Road was built in 1902. Its first owners may have been the Rice family. Harold Melville Rice, his wife and children are positively documented here in the early teens. He was a cashier for the banking and brokerage firm of Boody, McCellan & Co.
Mrs. Grace Rice was a very social woman who sponsored teas, did charity work and was mentioned in Brooklyn’s society pages. When the papers mentioned her address it was said to be in Prospect Park South, something someone actually from PPS would have vehemently disagreed with. The house was clearly on the “Other Side” of the Rugby Road gate to PPS at Beverley Road.
Sadly, Mrs. Rice died very young at the age of 36, in 1912. Her husband, devastated, sold the house and went with their younger son to live with his father-in-law. Harold Rice was killed two years later in a traffic accident in New Hampshire. He was only 40. The Rice family is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery.
Rugby Gardens. Photo via Trip Advisor
Later, during the 1930s, the house belonged to the Keppler family. They moved here in 1932 from nearby Albemarle Road. They lived here for a very long time, well into the 1950s.
Ignatius Keppler owned the Keppler Construction Company. The only trace of his name is from when he died in Florida in 1961 at the age of 78. His wife, Marie, was another story.
Although her first name never appears in print (she was always Mrs. Ignatius Keppler), Marie Keppler was in the papers often throughout the 1930s and ’40s, her photo featured at least three times. She was a leader, very active in many different social and civic activities. Her son Richard was featured with a photo once, and so was their daughter Gloria. The Keppler parents were living in New Jersey when Ignatius died. Marie outlived him, and her first name had to come from census records.
1936 photo via Brooklyn Eagle
Today, 317 Rugby Road is one of this neighborhood’s most photographed and famous houses. It’s amazing what some TLC and a great paint job can do. Especially when contrasted with the white painted shingles, as seen in the 1980s tax photo.
1980s tax photo via Municipal Archives
The owners painted the house in bright and bold burnt orange/gold and blue, with burgundy and green trim. The colors were inspired by a Maxfield Parrish illustration. The paint transformed this attractive house and made it a memorable destination.
Each accent color brings out a different part of the ornamentation. The details may have been noticed by a passerby, but now they pop in a joyous riot of color.
The house is now a successful bed and breakfast called Rugby Gardens.
Photo by Suzanne Spellen
This and top photo by Suzanne Spellen