Building of the Day: 278 Clinton Avenue

Clinton Hill Brooklyn -- 278 Clinton Ave History

The BOTD is a no-frills look at interesting structures of all types and from all neighborhoods. There will be old, new, important, forgotten, public, private, good and bad. Whatever strikes our fancy. We hope you enjoy.

Address: 278 Clinton Avenue, between DeKalb and Willoughby
Name: Private House
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill (Clinton Hill Historic District)
Year Built: 1884, approximately
Architectural Style: Queen Anne, with Neo-Grec elements
Architects: Unknown
Landmarked: Yes

The 1981 LPC designation report for Clinton Hill calls this house surely the most eccentric house in the historic district and is, unfortunately, one of the major houses for which historical information is unavailable. It really is some house.

It’s next door to the grounds of the wood frame Queen Anne at 284, which affords even more curb appeal, and the expansive foliage softens the edges of this large mansion, surrounded by an ornate wrought iron fence. Then there’s that unusual corner bay, which juts out like a castle turret, with a sturdy balcony held up with carved stone brackets.

Clinton Hill Brooklyn -- 278 Clinton Ave History

The whole house, which is quite large, projects a massive sturdiness, from the use of the contrasting red brick and white limestone, to the large porch and upper balcony on the front of the building.

A photo of the beveled glass side window, shot in winter without foliage, shows the delicacy of form amidst the massive columns, brackets and cornice, as does the intricate brickwork. There are lots of great houses on Clinton Ave. If I could have any of them, I’d take this one. It’s long been a favorite.

Clinton Hill Brooklyn -- 278 Clinton Ave History

Clinton Hill Brooklyn -- 378 Clinton Ave History

Clinton Hill Brooklyn -- 278 Clinton Ave History

[Photos by Suzanne Spellen]

0 Comment

  • If this and that massive frame one a few houses away ever be on the house tour, I’ll buy tickets

  • This house is really imaginative. Great example of what architecture should be and a welcome relief from the glass cubes of today.
    Thanks MM.

  • Another fav with lots of drama.

  • I’ve always loved this house — is it still intact or has it been subdivided into apartments?

  • Wow, I drove by two days wishing you would post about this house. Thanks! Are there no clues about who the architect would have been? It’s so unique.

  • Furking awesome. Love the corner skew.

    Can we get some market intelligence on this puppy?

    ***Bid half off peak comps***

  • Beeeyootiful. Nice choice, MM.

  • Very unusual. I’ve never seen anything like it.

  • Taxes are 12K. Which makes me think it’s still a single family abode.

  • This looks somewhat Montrosian to me, but maybe a little over the top even for him. I like the use of the poodle order for the columns.

  • MM, simply outstanding photo today :-)

    No cars, trees, or street lights. No glare, or left/right tilt, only a trace of lean, well done!

  • Obviously a matter of pure taste, but I find this house incredibly ugly, although impressively so. Definitely tests the limits of how *period* I can get.

    Opinion offered only in the interests of balance, since everyone else seems to love it. :-)

  • I should add that I like many of the individual elements/details, just not all of them at once.

  • One of my favorites as well. There is another house, I think between Lafayette and Greene, that also always catches my eye, of a similar massing, though not at this jaunty angle. It has some interesting ornamentation though, including Stars of David. I wish I could remember the number, but it’s been a while since i lived in that area.

  • THe last reliable information I have about this house was in the early ’80s, at which point there were apartments in the place, at least one of them rent controlled. The owner lived on the bottom two floors and had a vacant top floor and tried everything to entice the rent controlled tenant in the middle to move up or out so he could expand his living space to three connected floors.

    The owner at that time put a spiral staircase between the parlor and second floors – I wasn’t ever in the house so I don’t know how much detail was preserved but I’m sure the owner (who was an incredible industrial designer) made his alterations thoughtfully. I believe he was one of the authors of the landmark report for Clinton Hill. He was very active in the neighborhood’s designation and designed the maroon landmark district signs on Clinton Ave.

    There used to be an amazing garden in the front yard, all wild and deliberate at the same time. Not a blade of grass to be seen.

    The house changed hands in the ’90’s.

  • The garden is very well done. So few people know anything about proper gardens in the city. I suppose because garden types move to greener pastures and leave behind the folks who “gather allergic-smelling hay”.
    -how’s that for an arcane reference?

  • Dayaam, maam! That one is for the “She’s Gotta Have It” folder!

  • Thanks, Denton. I was out shooting pix with wasder that day. He inspired me to do well. It also helps that the house is far enough off the street so that one can shoot it from the sidewalk, avoiding cars, poles, etc. It ain’t always so!

    I’m glad almost everyone likes this one.

  • Wasn’t it “I get allergic smelling hay”?

  • Definitely one of my faves in the neighborhood. It is mostly single family – one, maybe two rental apartments in the back, one of which I looked at about 5 years ago. The owner is super-nice. One of my favorite touches is hers: you’ll notice the planters made out of aluminum beer kegs on the little roof above the porch – she said it is a nod to one of the early owners (maybe the original owner?) who owned a big brewery.

  • They’re definitely apartments. I remember going to a party in the 3rd floor unit 2-3 years ago. Very nice inside, but I remember thinking I shouldn’t drink so much beer because the railing on that 3rd floor terrace (upper left of photo) is pretty low and someone was likely to fall off.

  • Stunning house.

    But this style is Italianate, no?

  • This is the other one on Clinton that I love-

    While the mansions further down are impressive, this one, the one you posted here and that wood frame next door are my favorites of the whole block.